(Lanka-e-News -29.Jan.2024, 9.30 PM) “Only a mediocre person is always at his best.” -Somerset Maugham
The grapevine is teeming with rumors, theories and assumptions. When the political culture grips the nation that is expecting the moon and heaven from the governing circles and when that time comes at which the masses have an opportunity to choose their preference of a candidate, one over the other, pundits engage in theorizing, stalwarts of each side get ready for the next government and its peripheral goodies to fall into their laps and the masses literally look for a means for salvation. That is how Sri Lanka had been used to envisage the advent of election times. A very few, may be a handful, that adheres to simple logic and reasonable judgment in order to arrive at a reasonable forecast of as to what ensues the day after the elections. When the mundane looks forward to the day of the elections, the wise look forward to the day after.
The field is yet barren; its contours are still being drawn by the pseudo architects of politics; it's being trampled and damaged by the present and previous travelers. If the future travelers opt to stride along the same path with the same abject objectives, only disaster and extinction await them. Seventy five years of the same footsteps along the same curvy course have obliterated the beauty on either side of the road. Experience does play a decisive role in long journeys. Yet if the journeymen are corrupt, if they are ill-willed and if they are pathetically ill-equipped for the 'unpredictables' of the journey, they shall suffer beyond endurance. For this is no easy journey for the novice.
But every now and then appears a phenom. An outstandingly talented and skilled one whose words and actions seem to be intermingled and entwined with his or her process of thought. One whose authenticity transcends the ordinary boundaries of myth and superiority. When he or she speaks people are drawn to the speaker like magic; words cascade from the speaker's mouth along with tears from the listener's eyes. Such rare individuals succeed to capture the imagination of the broad masses. Those who want to listen to such a speaker again and again travel miles on end; rain or shine they trudge the steeply gravel roadways giving no quarter to their own discomfort or suffering.
Sri Lanka has not seen such an individual for some time; certainly not a politician for decades. Does Anura Kumara Dissanayake fall into that exempt lot? Neither Ranil Wickremasinghe nor Sajith Premadasa would fit into this masterclass. Both lack substance on the one hand and style and posture on the other. Both belong to that category of social class that is described as status quo. They were there earlier; they had come; they had seen and they had, instead of conquering, been buried by the masses. Boring and agonizingly repetitive and excruciatingly painful to watch, they fail to inspire the ones who are eager to learn. Instead of looking forward to the dawn of fresh ideas and beholding new vistas for the youth in the country, Sajith Premadasa is pontificating about a dawn of another Premadasa era. By doing so he manages to kill the intellectual and sociopolitical curiosity of the young. Ranil Wickremasinghe, after being in politics nearly one half of a century still cannot deliver an idea without being incoherent and lackadaisical.
Both Ranil and Sajith are at a crossroads today. Aragalaya painted a very bleak picture of the last seventy five years of rule by the traditional sociopolitical forces. Attempts to change that from traditional to radical fell flat miserably on two earlier occasions; once in 1971 and the other in 1987-1989. I wrote extensively on these two attempts at sociopolitical change through an armed uprising and how they were fated to fail. Since then the world has traveled more than a quarter of a century. The social media has taken over mass communication of news and information in a uniquely faster way and the real news being available to the remotest corner in the country is like a miracle in the twenty first century. It's not only the substance that has changed; the process by which substance is being transmitted too has changed exponentially. Social media is going to play an indispensable part in coming elections. Whoever controls the social media will have a decisive advantage, not only in communicating the substance of a campaign, but also the alacrity with which such substance is transmitted.
In such a media-laden context, a combination of Ranil Wickremasinghe and Sajith Premadasa would be an inviting target for those who engage proficiently in Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Nevertheless, it's too early to gauge the results without knowing the varied strategies employed by each Party who is running for Presidency. The current leader in application of the social media is the NPP. Their organization, fact-checked material that's being disseminated and the authenticity that's being communicated as a result of that trust built upon the authenticity of the news and information have been positive as a whole. That is why an all-congruent campaign is of vital necessity. The only other campaign that was run on those lines, was that of the '77-campaign run by J R Jayewardene and his UNP. That UNP is no more. That dedication to the end game and the clear defining of it's campaign was not evident before or after '77.
If anyone desires to evaluate the chances of Ranil Wickremasinghe, whether he's presenting himself alone or in a combine with Sajith Premadasa, one will invariably find a generational loser. Never at home with the common man, Ranil is extremely uncomfortable not only in the presence the commoner, he's also severely quirky in the midst of his peers or superiors. Such a person cannot win in the modern era of electioneering. He might be able to run a government offered to him on a platter reasonably better that most of other leaders, but getting there is as impossible as it could ever be. In such a drastic circumstance, a Ranil/Sajith Combo will be a disaster for both.
When one compares a fight between Ranil and Sajith, there is no competition. Sajith will roll over Ranil and the traditional UNP would ever be so regretful that it agreed to such a contest. However, weather Sajith could match a campaign that is being planned and already functional in force as that of the National People's Power (NPP), is questionable. Ranjit Madduma Bandara and Kabir Hashim, the so-called organizational wizards of the SJB, might not be able match the grassroots-oriented organization of the NPP. They have not deviated from the traditional campaign methodology, they are not presenting themselves as a fresh wind, quite different and aside from the age-old banal campaigning of the right-wing political enterprise. The SJB's performance in Parliament, at best is, ordinary. They seem to have forgotten the fact that parliamentary sessions are fully covered by the social media and their speeches and related conduct within the Chamber are directly disseminated to the public in an instant. Such functionalities need to be organized. One cannot expect them to be created by the public on their own. An entry in the Twitter becomes viral only if it's fed into the Twitter. Someone has to take that initial step of feeding and for that, one needs organization.
The SJB's most significant negative is their unwillingness to learn. With pandithayas (pseudo intellectuals) occupying the first and second tiers of the party, the SJB's road seems to be hard and the goal unreachable.
In an election, especially in a Presidential election, there are three priorities. They are as follows: 1. Organization 2. Organization and 3. Organization. Period. Authenticity of those who contest, their personal and public character, their policies and even their election-pledges shade into the second rank if ORGANIZATION fails. People, when they are called upon to judge, they look at the the organization, willy nilly. If a message of a political party is not reaching the way it was intended to reach and assimilated by the masses, they might not know that it was the failure of the organization that failed, they will place the blame and a negative feel on the party that has tried to reach them. Organization, therefore, holds an exclusive place in a campaign. Listening to those who have been losing election after election, lending their ears only to those who tell them what they like to hear is no way to run a campaign. No one person is the answer. A team of professionally keen and intellectually curious campaigners need to fill the first, second and third tiers of a Party. Without such men and women to fall in line, no political party is going anywhere but the trashcan of history.
NPP has never been successful at elections in the past. They had been campaigning, especially during the Wijeweera-time, depending on exhibitionistic politics and at every election they failed. They failed not only because they misread the electorate, they failed fundamentally because the country was not ready for an elementary change from the past. Aragalaya changed that sociopolitical context. The catastrophic fall of the economy and that being attributed to the political leaders of the last seventy five years along with rampant corruption amongst the current politicians shed light on a different path. That path was visible but the people at large refused to see that for they were incorrigibly in love with the status quo. When the collapse occurred, and when no other path seemed to be available, the people, the rural folks, the city dwellers who had been struggling to put food on the table, parents for whom satisfying their children's basic needs seems to be out of reach, when the youth in their exuberance to reach their unattainable goals, saw no other way, they paid attention to the National People's Power. NPP is no ordinary party of ordinary men and women. It has become an extraordinary political entity consisting of extraordinary men and women clothed in ordinary garb.
Their appeal to the ordinary man is extraordinary. Are the people attracted to the NPP by default? Yes and no. In the context of a need for a wholesale change, the voter may decide to cast their vote for the NPP because that's the only party that has not been tested and tried. Their leaders seem to be authentic and their speeches sound much more believable and convincing and above all, they seem to be, at least for the time being, incorruptible and above the fray! That is a total plus. Let's wait and see.
The writer can be contacted at [email protected]
by (2024-01-29 16:21:45)
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