In the past couple of weeks, it seemed that serious differences of appreciation of the Heritage City project were keeping apart the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. Differences appear to have been evened out lately when the Minister of Finance was given the responsibility to steer an alternative administrative city project.
It is not certain, though, that the division created within the ranks of the government between the chief advocate of the Heritage City project, Roshi Bhadain, on the one side, and other senior members of the government, on the other, is over yet. What is certain is that a lot of time has been wasted and prevailing deep intolerance within the ranks of the government has been publicly exposed. Positions taken by each side were so sharp that it would be naïve to assume that the hatchet has been buried for good.
It goes without saying that the lack of realisation on the part of government so far and the general feeling of apprehension it has instilled about its action do not give comfort that it will leave behind the fissiparousness which has characterised it so far.
At a time when Mauritius is faced with global challenges, such as the impact of Brexit on its economic future, one has a feeling that a serious disservice has been done by carrying so far and in public view such enduring conflicts within the ranks of government. To the point that certain political observers have started considering who next will hold the reins of power in Government House. If that is really the case, the people who voted this government to power will be greatly disillusioned by politics.
It may be recalled that the government gained such a strong majority in the House following the last general elections that the heavily beaten opposition appeared to be breaking apart. The MMM which had already split before the elections, split up again with a 6-member splinter group from it becoming a political party in its own rights, the Mouvement Patriotique (MP). Events are showing that by now even this split-away group has fast reduced itself to insignificance.
It wasn’t clear what this splinter group stood for except for distinguishing itself from Paul Bérenger, who was disavowed by his political power base due to his having formed an alliance with Navin Ramgoolam during the last elections. Some suspected that the MP was hoping to join the ranks of the government at some opportune moment, with some ministerial offer or other. Nothing of the sort happened.
If it had been contemplating to join the government, the latter was itself fast losing its public appeal. Here again, politicians proved unable to stick together due perhaps to diverging interests and different perceptions of future personal gains. MP appears finally to be disintegrating. No one came forward to explain his/her decision to quit the party due to any shortcoming it may have had in attending to the national agenda. So, it must have been a personal settlement of scores among members, not finding the common purpose, or that dissenting members of the MP would be taking issue with the manner in which the party was being led.
Whether for these reasons or purely for reason of clash of personalities, the MP is now effectively reduced to two members, the party’s leader and one member. The rest appear to have become rudderless for the moment. Some may even be contemplating returning to the MMM. Something went wrong, beyond repair, as far as the MP is concerned.
This is the kind of stuff local politics appears to be increasingly based upon. The interest of individual politicians seems to overtake higher national pursuits.
One might say the same about political partners who temporarily form a coalition to win elections. In the last elections, the MMM and Labour formed such a coalition under the assumption that they would be unbeatable and sure to win. The election result proved so disconcerting that the MMM leader lost no time to attribute the defeat to Navin Ramgoolam with whom he was almost certain, just moments before, to be sharing the reins of power.
Even parties within the present government felt footloose when controversy about the Heritage City project assumed significant proportions. It is only after the PM decided publicly to do away with the project, in the form it was originally conceived, that they came out to make public their own strong feeling of unease over all that was going on in the past on this issue. In other words, the situation was being allowed to fester until breaking point perhaps.
One wonders therefore how deeply will this artificial “manufacturing” of political alliances and their eventual undoing affect people’s faith in the political process. The perception today, and increasingly so, is that politicians have debased politics to such a point that people may ultimately have no choice than to keep bringing to the fore over and over again the very politicians they have vehemently rejected as being unworthy of their trust. The left-over sense of values in the nation will thus be ruined.
There was a time when politics was the art of compromise, an arena where the best of ideas were allowed to have sway, where individuals were keen to abandon their private interests so as to privilege lofty social goals and there was a certain sense of respect for each other among politicians. All this was done to prioritise the national agenda. The time appears to have come now, thanks to the game of switching partners opportunistically over a long stretch of time, where politics has been seriously debased. It has become a game of individual interests.