By S. Callikan
Even died-in-the-wool LP followers may well be wondering where went the four years of reconstruction, if any, since 2014. And more worryingly, whether post-electoral analyzes, postmortems, rethinking and restructurings could well mean more of the same
Many of us might have followed the 2016 US electoral campaign and the startling moment when candidate Donald Trump publicly invited a foreign power, namely Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, to use his country’s IT special cells to allegedly meddle in the US elections. Last month, President Donald Trump has been caught in another equally embarrassing ploy, holding up Federal Congress approved military assistance, in a now disclosed “quid pro quo” attempt to get the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, who he assumed to be his most likely adversary in 2020.
The 300-page impeachment report about this and the ongoing proceedings may not lead to much as politically wily Trump intends projecting this to his 40% of loyalists as more fake charges and witch-hunt from an Establishment out to get him since his election. Against a diverse crop of opponents with no clear national front runner, his simplistic spins towards his rock-steady American base will most certainly keep Trump in good stead for the 2020 polls. Washington elites and media may again fall prey to their inability to understand that appeal and the consequential underestimation of the incumbent President in the lead-up to 2020.
On a vastly different plane, inability to analyze or comprehend the population’s majority views was nonetheless pregnant in the Indian National Congress postulate that its rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by the BJP was a “black swan” moment that would not and simply could not be repeated in 2019. That flagrant underestimation of the country’s national undercurrents and the failure to emerge a credible alternative platform against the undoubted strengths of the BJP, led the latter to a rousing quasi-repeat of its 2014 triumph, much to the chagrin and disorientation of anglophile elites, bloggers and media pundits.
“Yet in a governance period marked by major upheavals, if only around the Bramer/BAI/Betamax affairs and a succession of scandals, the traditional LP electorate reconnected with its leadership, forgiving its wayward ways at a September 2015 gathering in Triolet. It was followed by the convincing LP victory in the 17 December 2017 by-election in Belle-Rose/Quatre-Bornes. In retrospect, as an armchair observer, one may wonder whether that apparent reconnect and the subsequent victory in No. 18, might have fed a subliminal view within LP spheres that the 2014 debacle was a “black swan” event…”
In a complex electoral setup integrating multiple regional and cultural factors, that is certainly a simplified view, which is used here only to highlight some dangers that political parties, particularly those in the Opposition, have to or, in our own case, could have guarded against. Much as the Indian National Congress, following the 2014 debacle both the MMM and the Labour Party (LP) had to repair the massive damages left by an over-confident approach to those general elections and assess the deeper undercurrents running through their traditional voter mainstays.
One can sympathize with the immense tasks facing both parties, the first subject to a series of squabbles and departures of notable figures, the second with its leader, Navin Ramgoolam tied up with a number of criminal charges, most of which would be later dismissed in courts of justice. Yet in a governance period marked by major upheavals, if only around the Bramer/BAI/Betamax affairs and a succession of scandals, the traditional LP electorate reconnected with its leadership, forgiving its wayward ways at a September 2015 gathering in Triolet. It was followed by the convincing LP victory in the 17 December 2017 by-election in Belle-Rose/Quatre-Bornes.
In retrospect, as an armchair observer, one may wonder whether that apparent reconnect and the subsequent victory in No. 18, might have fed a subliminal view within LP spheres that the 2014 debacle was a “black swan” event occasioned by galling and over-confident mismanagement by both the LP and the MMM. The sense of rising connect with the electorate at meetings may even have pushed the narrative that the LP could even ride it out alone at the upcoming 2019 general elections. This would no doubt have suited “wannabe” candidates, particularly those that obviously didn’t fit the “rupture” thematic nor popular expectations.
Naturally, the renewed confidence of December 2017, without immediately structuring the political platform and partnerships, the constituency-level personnel and responsibilities, the campaign and coordination structures, the think-tanks and the key policies for a meaningful alternative, would be tantamount to underestimating the strengths of the governing alliance, its immense resources and its tightly knit command-and-control leadership structures and abilities. And indeed, as experienced political observer Rajiv Servansingh noted in last week’s interview, the LP fell back to its traditional and time-tested semi-structured improvisations with the ultimate result that defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. I suspect that even died-in-the-wool LP followers may well be wondering where went the four years of reconstruction, if any, since 2014. And more worryingly, whether post-electoral analyzes, postmortems, rethinking and restructurings could well mean more of the same.
Of course, the Opposition has immediate emergencies to attend to, with the emerging disturbing picture of an electoral process that seems to have been so controversially flawed at so many levels that the traditional respect the Commissioner himself enjoyed will be under scrutiny at the Supreme Court with the record number of filed petitions. It is precisely because of the past credentials of our Electoral Commission(er) in this important democratic exercise, that many have been shocked and that matters need convincing clearing up.
The constitutional recourse, under the present atmosphere of undispelled clouds, should we hope, get the earliest hearings. At a time when trust in our independent institutions has been somewhat eroded, when a long succession of high-profile affairs has affected our international reputation, many lay and non-partisan folk will feel relieved that our judiciary is the ultimate guardian of our democratic rights and the Constitution. The only place where the negativity and doubts about Elections 2019 can be dispelled, the numerous questions answered and the controversies laid to rest. The country needs to move on in a more serene footing.
* Published in print edition on 6 December 2019
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