That compelled few urban middle-class Sinhala Buddhists and a few ex-military officers to believe Gotabaya Rajapaksa could be an ‘alternative’ to Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Most unfortunately for Gotabaya, he is not even endorsed by his own Rajapaksa family to declare himself a presidential candidate at the
Despite allegations of heavy corruption and court cases against Basil Rajapaksa, he remains the most politically savvy organiser among Rajapaksa siblings.
Most unfortunately for Gotabaya, he is not even endorsed by his own Rajapaksa family to declare himself a presidential candidate at the 2020 election
He also carries with him the ‘anti-UNP’ stamp, having been arrested and remanded by this UNP led ‘Unity’ Government. A situation Gotabaya is mortally afraid of facing and has been evading arrests through judicial rulings obtained.
During the past year, two attempts by Gotabaya to prop himself up in politics, first with Viyathmaga (Intellectual Path) and thereafter with Eliya (Light) fizzled off without any public interest.
A clear message, Gotabaya is not accepted by the Sinhala Buddhist majority.
He is not recognised as one who could give leadership to the Sinhala Buddhists sentiments that Mahinda Rajapaksa has rallied around himself.
Gotabaya also carries with him a baggage that makes him look a dreadful despot in power.
In short, Gotabaya is not accepted within the Sinhala Buddhist majority, even to the extent, Basil is still tolerated. That is also why Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to have confidence in Basil as the necessary organisational prop for his popular Sinhala image.
Thus, it was Basil who was chosen by Mahinda to organise the new party, the SLPP and not Gotabaya. The SLPP swept the LG Elections without Gotabaya in sight, but with Basil managing the election campaign for Mahinda.
It proves that Mahinda Rajapaksa still remains the irreplaceable popular Sinhala Buddhist leader for more years to come.
For Mahinda Rajapaksa to reach the pinnacle of political power once again, he needs a Parliamentary Election and that should come before the 2020 Presidential Election too.
One option would be to have a resolution passed in Parliament with a two-thirds majority. For now, to have that resolution passed with a two-thirds majority seems a dream that cannot be given feet.
The Joint Opposition is in a tiring struggle to find adequate numbers to have their No-Confidence Motion passed in Parliament on April 4.
A man who always loves to walk on secured paths and would work on them patiently, Mahinda does not seem to be wasting time with that option of a resolution in Parliament for elections.
My guess therefore is, Mahinda is stealthily working on a different option, he perhaps thinks is more pragmatic and solid.
This leads the country into a political knot that Wickremesinghe tied with 19A.
Mahinda Rajapaksa no doubt is eyeing that knot, Wickremesinghe would now want to untie, to his advantage. With mutual agreement or not, they both seem to be on the same page, in having Parliamentary Elections, before a Presidential Election.
The Constitutional knot Wickremesinghe tied with 19A to keep this ‘Unity’ Government going for four-plus years with him as PM, now seems an uneasy knot for him too to live with.
As it is, four-and-a-half years from August 2015 would count beyond March 2020 for Parliamentary Elections. On the same 19A, the Presidential Election would come in January 2020.
If Wickremesinghe cannot be assured victory at that Presidential Election, he will dare not contest the 2020 Presidential Election, to be defeated once again.
Such assurance is hard to come for Wickremesinghe, even from his own party.
In a situation where there is no guarantee on a Presidential Electoral victory for him, he will not have any other contesting the Presidency from the UNP.
Worst is, there is also none in the UNP for now, who could stand up to a Presidential Election, except Mangala Samaraweera.
But Mangala is still not accepted as a finely groomed UNPer to be allowed that privilege by the UNP hierarchy.
The dilemma for the UNP that avoided the two previous Presidential Elections is, they cannot once again go behind a ‘Common Candidate.’
Where would this leave the UNP and Wickremesinghe and how does Rajapaksa come on their page? Their page is not very complicated to read. If the UNP and Wickremesinghe cannot be certain they could win a Presidential Election with Wickremesinghe as the candidate, then Wickremesinghe would opt to have Parliamentary Elections, with a Constitutional amendment to abolish the Executive Presidency and would allow for Parliamentary Elections.
Thus, it was Basil who was chosen by Mahinda to organise the new party, the SLPP and not Gotabaya. The SLPP swept the LG Elections without Gotabaya in sight, but with Basil managing the election campaign for Mahinda
Presidential Election can then be scrapped to elect a non-executive President as in India through Parliament.
In fact, for the UNP that would be a more pragmatic move to claim power at an election as a single political party.
Then comes Rajapaksa, who is denied a third term and would, therefore, want a Parliamentary Election with the same Constitutional amendment.
More so, because he now has proved he can lead the race, even without the support of the Sirisena faction of the SLFP.
That is how all other things seem to be now falling into place. Rajapaksa is perhaps working on a dual strategy. The No –Confidence Motion against the PM is what the Joint Opposition (JO) is working on to forge unity with the Sirisena group of the SLFP that wants to be seen as ‘anti-UNP.’
That would compel Sirisena to allow his men to vote in favour of the No-Confidence Motion, without any disciplinary threats.
He is also seen further consolidating his power over economic policy of the Government, right or wrong.
On the other side of the No-Confidence Motion, Rajapaksa avoided giving it his own popular identity.
His strategy was to project an ‘I’m not there. I’m there’ image by presenting it to the Speaker, without his signature.
Thus he has already made certain, the No-Confidence Motion would allow the JO and other UPFA MPs in the Government to go ‘anti-UNP’, but does not seem to want UNP dissidents to join the No-Confidence Motion to oust PM Wickremesinghe for he needs Wickremesinghe as PM to push through a Constitutional amendment to abolish the Executive Presidency with a two-thirds majority and then the UNP to win the people’s Referendum that would follow.
Mahinda Rajapaksa still remains the irreplaceable popular Sinhala Buddhist leader for years to come
PM Wickremesinghe too needs Rajapaksa for the same reasons.
Perhaps Wickremesinghe believes he could win a Parliamentary Election with minority support, while Rajapaksa believes he could win the Parliamentary Electionon his Sinhala Buddhist platform, even if President Sirisena would opt to keep away from an alliance with his SLPP.
He has already morphed his SLPP into a novel SLFP at grassroots. LG bodies have shown, there is an organic anti-UNP front taking shape, with Sirisena’s SLFP joining the SLPP to keep the UNP out of office even in places where they led the vote.
For President Sirisena, his new arrogant ‘anti-UNP’ stance within this Unity Government, will not open any better window to see a better future than what Wickremesinghe -Rajapaksa agenda would offer a compromise to abolish the Executive Presidency to be President and a nominal head of State, elected by a Parliament, dominated either by Wickremesinghe or by Rajapaksa.
For these two the boxing ring would be large enough to spend time shadow boxing for at least another whole year.