Politically speaking, this is going to be an election that will be crucial for two parties in the opposition; the United National Party (UNP) and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa
- The SJB, or at least a section of it, is all out to eliminate the UNP as a political force to be reckoned with
- The UNP leadership sees those who threw their lot with the SJB as bad eggs. Now, he has rid the party of its bad eggs
The election campaign has reached its tail end. The Election Commission is in full swing laying emphasis on arrangements for the conduct of polls on August 5 in accordance with health guidelines issued in view of COVID-19.
This is no longer a closely contested election, and as such the winner is obvious even for someone with a little political knowledge. However, politically speaking, this is going to be an election that will be crucial for two parties in the opposition; the United National Party (UNP) and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).
A fierce contest has arisen between the UNP and the SJB ahead of the elections. With just one week ahead of the day of polling, the UNP expelled 54 members who received nomination from the SJB. Besides, it sacked 61 UNP members of the local authorities for not supporting the party in the run up to the parliamentary polls.
Wickremesinghe took such a drastic action ahead of the elections at a time when the SJB, on its election platform, was repeatedly asserting that it would take control of the UNP after the elections. Also, the SJB candidates refer to the example of late UNP leader Gamini Dissanayake who defected from the party once and rejoined it to be its leader in the secret ballot conducted in 1994 outsmarting Mr. Wickremesinghe. In this instance, the SJB’s implied message is that its leader Sajith Premadasa will also do the same after the election this time. The UNP working committee decided on the expulsion of these members in such a context, and the motive behind it has to be analysed accordingly. It is nothing, but a warning that the UNP is no longer ready for any patch-up with the SJB. With this expulsion, these SJB members cease to be having anything to do with the UNP. The SJB now has no means of reuniting with the UNP as a party. It is now a separate political entity with no ties with the UNP. Individual members can make a comeback to the UNP, but the party UNP will decide on whether to accommodate them on its terms only.
By instituting tough action on the members of the local authorities, the UNP warned them against politicking with the SJB. The UNP wants to see the back of SJB on all accounts.
The UNP leadership sees those who threw their lot with the SJB as bad eggs. Now, he has rid the party of its bad eggs. What is next? The UNP will think of starting afresh with the infusion of new blood. After the elections, attention will be paid in this respect. Success of such action depends on the outcome of the
There are three main political parties in the fray- Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the UNP and the SJB. The winner is a foregone conclusion since this is not a closely contested election. As the governing party, the SLPP is focusing only on how it can get two-thirds or reach near it for the execution of some projects such as constitutional reforms after the elections.
The SJB’s intent is to become the next formidable political force in the country sidestepping the UNP or making it redundant in politics. The SJB leaders expend most of their energy in this direction. The outcome of the elections is crucial for both the UNP and the SJB in this scenario. In case, the UNP trails way behind the SJB according to the results of the General Elections to be concluded, it will have serious challenges in repositioning itself as a party. It will bode well for the party in its future aspirations, if it musters a considerable number of MPs.
The SJB, or at least a section of it, is all out to eliminate the UNP as a political force to be reckoned with. The party will succeed in its endeavour only if it wins over a bulk of the core UNP voters at
In the midst of the contest between these two parties, it is interesting to note some UNP candidates staking a claim for the UNP leadership openly at election rallies. The best example is UNP national organizer Navin Dissanayake articulating his ambition to succeed Mr. Wickremesinghe as the next leader. Besides, UNP General secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, in an electoral address, said he would ensure the highest leadership position to his Kuliyapitiya electorate. Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayake and Galle district candidate Vajira Abeywardane are other
They must be spelling out their leadership ambitions in a move to boost the morale of their respective constituents. Constituents are always happy to have their political representative as the leader of the party. Mr. Dissanayake seems to be thinking that his Nuwara-Eliya constituents will rally round him in his bid to be the next UNP Leader when he opens up his mind. The same must be the thinking of Mr. Kariyawasam. In this way, they all try to wean their voters who are hardcore UNPers to be away from the SJB at this election. In contemporary Sri Lankan political history, leaders emerge rather than being made. It is a common phenomenon in terms of both the parties.
Whatever might to be the strategies of these two parties, nothing is certain in politics. Decisions and strategies cannot sometimes be pre-planned. Circumstances shape and prevail upon decision making, and then politics make strange bedfellows. It is nothing surprising if the circumstances force the UNP and the SJB to shed differences to form a common alliance against the SLPP-led political force one day.