COLOMBO: It is with an eye on the forthcoming provincial and national elections, that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) are opposing Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to remain Prime Minister tooth and nail.

The TNA and the TPA are acutely aware that the Tamils in the Northern, Eastern, Western, Central and Uva provinces do not want Rajapaksa to be in power and have traditionally voted against him and his party in elections.

While the TNA is the main Tamil party in the Northern and Eastern provinces, the TPA is influential in the Western, Central and Uva provinces. Among the tea plantation workers the TPA shares space with Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC).

Rajapaksa and his outfits, be it the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) or the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna ( SLPP), are seen as being “anti-Tamil” by Tamils, especially in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

If there is no Tamil party in the fray, the Lankan Tamils tend to vote the United National Party (UNP) or the United National Front (UNF) both led by Wickremesinghe as these formations are viewed as “minorities friendly.”

Elections to the Northern, Eastern, Central, Southern,Western and Uva Provincial Councils will have to be held between now and September 2019. And there are Presidential and parliamentary elections due in 2020.

“In the context of the present conflict between the parliament and President Maithripala Sirisena, the TNA should not be seen as being a prop for Rajapaksa, who Sirisena had appointed Prime Minister by ousting Ranil Wickremesinghe, though the latter enjoyed majority support in parliament,” a TNA MP from Jaffna district, D.Siddharthan said.

“We cannot be seen as propping up Rajapaksa either by voting for him or abstaining in a vote,” Siddharthan emphasized.

Rajapaksa is no friend of TNA’s. The TNA MP pointed out that Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is circulating a video clip showing the UNF leader Ranil Wickremesinghe being in cahoots with a top leader of the TNA in parliament - a kind of political association the majority Sinhalese are averse to.

The idea in circulating the clip is to show that the UNF and its leaders are being guided by the TNA, which, to the SLPP and its ally the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), is tainted by a past association with the separatist LTTE.

No wonder then, that TNA MP, M.A.Sumanthiran and TPA MP Mano Ganeshan are virtually leading the opposition’s charge against Rajapaksa in parliament since October 26, when President Sirisena suddenly overthrew Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and installed Mahinda Rajapakasa in his place disregarding the fact that Wickremesinghe had majority support in parliament.

Sirisena Might Backtrack

According to the Siddharthan, President Sirisena is likely to accept that he cannot prop up Rajapaksa any more. He is likely to appoint Wickremesinghe back again, breaking his oft-repeated pledge that he will never do so.

When a Motion of No Confidence is moved in parliament (for the third time) on December 5, this time using the electronic voting system as per the demand of President Sirisena, it will be proved beyond doubt that Rajapaksa does not command majority support, Siddhathan said.

“Though the President says that he will not re-instate Wickremesinghe and that he is alright with any other UNF MP who he can get along with, he may be forced to accept Wickremesinghe because the UNF will stick to its guns. It has become a prestige issue for the UNP and UNF,” the Tamil MP said.

The UNP and UNF cannot be expected to go for a compromise by sacrificing Wickremesinghe when they are clearly heading for a comprehensive victory, it is pointed out.

Growing international opprobrium for his hasty and indefensible actions could also weigh in the President’s mind it is said.

Sirisena-Rajapaksa Rupture?

If the President backtracks from his commitment to Rajapaksa, the present alliance between the SLFP and SLPP may break.

It was the President who invited Rajapaksa to become Prime Minister, promising that he will get at least 113 out of the 225 MPs to support him. Rajapaksa believed it and took the bait with alacrity only to find himself being stonewalled by a united UNF which also got the fullest support of the TNA and the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).

Need To Be In Office To Win Elections

Rajapaksa says that he assumed office to give an interim government before general elections so as to set matters right.

Sri Lanka, he said, was going to seed under the neo-liberal UNF regime which was also constantly quarrelling with the leftist and nationalistic President. This trend had to be arrested for the country’s survival, he argued.

But according to the TNA MP Siddharthan, Rajapaksa’s main aim was to hold the next general election while he is ensconced in power. It helps to be in power ahead of elections as election-oriented policies can be implemented.

Indeed, in the short span of time he has been in power, Rajapaksa has lowered taxes on a variety of items of common use including petrol and diesel. He has also taken measures which will appeal to farmers, his core constituency.