Leadership of the Opposition


In the early hours of Sunday morning, former PM Navin Ramgoolam, returned safely to our shores after being granted a post-Covid health clearance by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences top Covid specialists and after a courtesy call on PM Modi to thank him and the Indian authorities for the support and hospitality during his treatment. Although he would still be in some form of convalescence, self-isolation or recovery, with restricted meetings and outings from his home in Floreal, the news has been received with relief in LP quarters, while many both inside and outside party ranks and sympathizers will be already keen to gauge his mood and political strategies ahead, both at party and national levels.

In last week’s issue long-time astute political observer Lindsay Riviere, made the point that much depends on that mood and he pretty much made the case that the next general elections will be decided between the only two political rivals, Navin Ramgoolam and Pravind Jugnauth, both with similar strategies, namely to grab or hold the rural constituencies while looking for regional players to sway urban ones.

That such a thesis holds water has been demonstrated in the 2019 general election, where the MSM, against a divided Opposition field, held the so-called “Hindu Belt” constituencies while it succeeded in getting former MMM regional players like Kavi Ramano, Alan Ganoo and Steven Obeegadoo to carry the day in specific urban constituencies. The case that a united minority, albeit with powerful resources, can, in our First Past The Post electoral system and processes, win the day against a divided majority was made and party leaders will be fully aware of the risks of such a repeat MSM performance in 2024.

Many observers and the population at large may then have been flabbergasted by the inability of the Opposition, as structured by Paul Berenger under the ‘Entente de l’Espoir’ umbrella, to gain meaningful traction and recognize these days that this was not the winning formula it purported to be even in urban constituencies for upcoming municipal elections. Maybe a case of too many leader aspirants, not necessarily with converging agendas, while the MMM and its leader, Paul Berenger, have been on the back-foot with more defections, believed to have been engineered by MSM headquarters.

The whole Berenger strategy hinging on excluding the LP and Navin Ramgoolam seems to have backfired. While the ‘Entente de l’Espoir’ looks deprived of a natural national leader, non-traditional activists or smaller players (like Bruno Laurette, Avengers, Resistans ek Alternativ, and other groups) have yet to play their cards for these same municipals. Whether the scenery on the Opposition front will change in upcoming weeks or months remains to be seen. Ultimately, however, the opposition will have to make up its mind as to who will lead an opposition alliance. Although we are some three years away from the next general election, the answer to that question will decide which alliance will win the election.

* Published in print edition on 12 October 2021

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