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Jumbos, Jayasuriya and jinx

Karu Jayasuriya’s return to the UNP’s fold came as no surprise on Monday. He had had one foot in the UNP for a few weeks and resisted repeated attempts by his fellow dissidents to persuade him to change his mind. Various reasons are being given for his controversial decision. It is claimed that he had fallen out with President Mahinda Rajapaksa over the recent appointment of Grama Sevaka Niladharis as some SLFPers accused him of having favoured a lot of UNP supporters, a charge Karu vehemently denied in public.

Such issues, if true, were minor irritants which Karu could have sorted out through a meeting with the President. Karu, being a patriot to the core, had every reason to remain in the Rajapaksa government and back its war effort. He would not have left the government in a huff because of some trivial matters of that nature. It is reported that Karu said somewhere he had major issues with the non-implementation of the 17th Amendment. That is nothing but baloney. He is no babe! Surely, he was able to read President Rajapaksa’s mind and realise that the 17th Amendment was destined to be in cold storage for quite sometime as its implementation would clash with the President’s agenda. On the other hand, if Karu is so concerned about democracy, how could he go back to the UNP which he left together with a group of other UNP MPs in protest against the absence of internal democracy?

It was not any love for democracy, or tussles with the powers that be that led to Karu’s going back. In leaving the UNP and returning to it, he was influenced by one factor—his political ambition. After the UNP’s loss at the last Presidential election, everybody thought Ranil would step down and allow Karu to take over the party. That way, it was thought, the UNP would be able to win future elections. Karu, too, would have been happy as UNP leader. But, Ranil’s refusal to hang up his boots so easily and the resultant bleak prospects that the party had of its future, prompted some UNP top guns including Karu to explore alternative ways of fortifying their political future. And they, convinced that they could not control the destiny of the party or win elections because of the one-man show of the leader, decided to join the Rajapaksa government.

Conditions that Karu cited as reasons for his exit are still prevailing in the UNP. The leader stays put in spite of defeats one after the other and the party loses crucial votes in Parliament at a rate. Worse, there is a factional war on in the party with several key members going for one another’s jugular, as evident from the JJ battle (between John and Jayalath).

Then why on earth did Karu go back?

Karu is an inveterate believer in astrology like any other politician who feels insecure, given the glorious uncertainties of politics. The present graha maaruwa (change of planetary positions) is expected to have a malefic effect on the current UNP leadership from today (Dec. 10) onwards. If Karu found the super natural forces of the universe on his side, then he would be the next UNP leader. We are not in a position to make astrological forecasts and whether planets will stand Karu in good stead or not remains to be seen.

Has the UNP benefited from Karu’s return? Only the government propagandists will claim it has not. The government’s loss has certainly been the UNP’s gain. But, it is only wishful thinking that he will be able to help the UNP win elections unless its present policies undergo a drastic change. Now that Karu has come back, will the UNP be in a position to win future elections? What prevented the UNP from winning elections all these years was not Karu’s absence. Even with him on board, the UNP lost many elections, didn’t it?

The UNP’s votes increased remarkably at the NCP and the Sabaragamuwa PC polls a couple of months ago in spite of the UNP rebels led by Karu pulling for the government. The UNP and the SLFP — and even the JVP — have such faithful vote banks that defectors cannot carry many voters with them.

Karu has not been able to bring all the UNP rebels back. He may be able to deliver only a few of them back to the party. The majority of the UNP dissidents will continue to be in the government and get assimilated into the SLFP-led coalition.

Karu, however, will serve a useful purpose for Ranil, who is under pressure to deliver or depart. The wrath of the party’s rank and file, as we argued yesterday, will now be directed towards Karu, who has crossed the path of several ambitious UNP bigwigs dreaming of not only the party leadership but also the presidency.

Karu’s return has aggravated the woes of many in the UNP. S. B. Dissanayake, Sajith Premadasa, Vajira Abeywardene as well as Mangala Samaraweera, who has thrown in his lot with the UNP, will have to come to terms with Karu. All their political plans have gone awry because of him, who has triggered a cold war in an already fissiparous UNP.

The UNP cannot afford to pin all its hopes on Karu as the jinx responsible for its pathetic performance remains intact. It is the public perception that the UNP is a cat’s paw of the anti-national forces hell bent on destroying Sri Lanka.

It was only the other day that Ranil publicly derived some perverse pleasure in proclaiming that Kilinochchi had not been recaptured and the LTTE had 15,000 combatants. He often makes such statements as Prabhakaran should be making. Even Prabhakaran, it may be recalled, desisted from referring to Kilinochchi in his recent heroes’ day speech.

Ranil’s statements arguably smack of a desire to see the country fail in its war against terror so that the government won’t be able to make political capital out of military victories. But, people want the country to win the war, regardless of who gets the credit for it—be it the SLFP or the UNP. Therefore, they want a leader who is capable of winning the war. Ranil, thanks to his ill-conceived utterances against war, has alienated a vast majority of patriotic people who alone can make or break governments. It is no surprise that the UNP has been losing elections consecutively.

Thus, though the UNP has scored a political point over the government by getting Karu back, it will be mistaken if it thinks it will be able to turn the tables on the government by triggering defections alone without removing the aforesaid jinx causing it to lose elections.

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