Lawmaker Sajith Premadasa has decided to break away from the shackles placed on him and think for himself. At present Sajith is much talked about after he showed his intentions of contesting the much-looked-forward-to presidential elections.
He has been loyal to the United National Party (UNP) and walked behind the shadows of former leaders of the party. But that system of doing politics hasn’t served him well because it (the system) helped Ranil Wickremesinghe rise in the party ranks and eventually become a leader who is not open to the ideas of others. In other words Wickremesinghe wishes to continue as the party leader and has given enough indication that he still wishes to be the party’s election candidate.
Right now Wickremesinghe sees a ‘Sajith wave’ rising. There were talks between the two-which were held on a one-on-one basis. But the outcome left the UNP Deputy Leader in total frustration and the seasoned Green Man with another opportunity to strengthen his resolve.
The UNP is a party with some democracy when compared to its main rival the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which is dominated by the Rajapaksa clan. We hear of Sajith’s propaganda and the efforts made by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to put a feeler to the people that he too might contest the upcoming elections. The recent photo shoot he did at parliament gives us the hint of a possible attempt by Jayasuriya to seek nomination from the UNP in the coming days. Sajith is taking a similar approach. Sajith might not be photogenic, but he has got his face in both the print and electronic media through his housing programmes. So it seems that there is a three-pronged thrust for the party nomination within the UNP with regard to the presidential elections.
Taking into account Wickremesinghe’s string of defeats at elections and the attempts he made in Machiavellian style to take the battle to his opponents at the 2010 and 2015 presidential elections, this (presidential election) seems to be the mother of all tests for him.
People do accept the fact Wickremesinghe has a better working brain business wise compared to that of Sajith. The Wickremesinghe government has signed trade agreements with other nations. The UNP leader can initiate many moves business wise, but his plans to turn around loss making state owned enterprises have attracted criticism because of other nations being roped in as stakeholders. But Sajith on the other hand has stayed clear of engaging in business ventures and stuck to his programmes of raising the less affluent from being in positions of poverty.
Many opine that this is the ideal opportunity for Sajith to move ahead of Wickremesinghe in UNP’s political journey which is somewhat stagnated because grooming the second generation has been so badly neglected. If Sajith was blamed for not being politically ambitious, now he is praised for the aggressiveness he is showing to make his work be counted and rewarded.
But in Sri Lankan politics lawmakers like Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa have often shown that wit pays richer dividends in comparison to straight talk.
Sajith has better playing cards in comparison to Wickremesinghe when it comes to maintaining a relationship with the temple, priests and Buddhism. This is a subject where Wickremesinghe has messed up or not bothered to understand. The Present UNP leader’s desperation to score some brownie points in this regard was witnessed when he ‘noted Ladakh as the first Indian state with a Buddhist majority’. Wickremesinghe in general has channelled his time and efforts to convince people about his ability as a politician rather than win the hearts of Buddhist monks.
Right now Sajith loyalists are working hard to convince the UNP parliamentary group and the working committee to make the party take a vote on who should be the presidential candidate for the upcoming elections. Can this ‘Sajith wave’ create that momentum to a change a party culture which badly needs new thinking!