Roshi Bhadain’s Rash Gamble

By-Election in No. 18: Politics as the Art of the Possible

The breaking news in politics last week was undoubtedly the resignation of Roshi Bhadain as Member of Parliament for Constituency number 18. For the preceding weeks the threat of resignation had been ably manipulated by the seemingly unfathomable Roshi Bhadain who thus continued to occupy centre stage on the political scene as has been the case almost since Day One of this new legislature.

Forthwith though things might get a little trickier as the future turn of events would depend on a variety of factors and circumstances beyond his immediate control. For starters, Roshi Bhadain has unwittingly put himself in the situation of a “demandeur” as he vainly tried to convince the opposition parties to support him as the sole representative of the opposition for the coming by-election. In fact things have gone awfully wrong for him and one is left wondering how on earth he could have been so naïve.

Even the PMSD of his former “colistier” Xavier Duval is now considering to field a candidate although since he resigned as a Minister and joined the opposition, the relation between the two men seemed to have manifestly warmed up. As regards the Labour Party and the MMM, the only way to have them abstain from participation would have been for Roshi Bhadain to publicly make it a condition préalable of his resignation with a public commitment from both parties. Having failed to do so will most likely be the mistake which could prove fatal to his short political career.

Not winning the by-election and even worse realizing a poor showing, would surely create a damming situation for the future of Roshi Bhadain and his Reform Party. Generally speaking, the electorate is rarely impressed by this kind of bravado being displayed by their elected representatives – ask Messrs Jean Claude de l’Estrac and Ivan Collendavelloo about it – even though they might be political stalwarts of long standing. In the event, the rash gamble taken by Roshi Bhadain is most likely going to be one that he will live to regret…

Arvin Boolell: The Providential Man…

On the face of it, one would think that the MMM, on the back of an honourable showing for the recent Labour day rallies, will reasonably feel that this coming by-election is an opportunity for capitalizing on the present mood in the country. Though adding one member to its rather thin presence in Parliament would not materially change any balance of power, a victory at an election, albeit a by-election, would be a tremendous boost to the morale of the supporters and leaders of the party.

On the downside, of course, a defeat would be a blow but probably in the minds of the MMM leaders, and rightly so it would seem, not an insurmountable one as long as it is not a crushing loss. All said then, for the MMM the upside of a possible victory would far outweigh the political risks associated with an eventual defeat and therefore in the case of a by-election in Constituency number 18 one would expect the MMM to field a candidate and apply all its energy to win it.

The MMM has indeed found a candidate. The choice of the neophyte Nita Juddoo-Jaddoo and the tenuous explanations regarding the non-selection of the more experienced Vijay Makhan however sends a strong signal. It indicates that the MMM might not finally be that keen to win this contest.

There is a strong case to argue that a cold and rational conclusion reached by the politburo of the MMM is that the best interest of the MMM (and one may add perhaps for the country) may after all reside in a triumphant success of Arvin Boolell at this eventual by-election. The rationale for this view is that such a victory would add a lot of wind to the sails of the latter in his quest for the leadership of the Labour Party and the eventual departure of Navin Ramgoolam.

For all its claims that it is gearing itself to go it alone for the next general elections, the MMM leadership is aware that without Navin Ramgoolam the Labour Party becomes a most potent and accommodating partner in their quest for winning those elections. To use an analogy from the history of warfare, this would be neither the first nor the last time that a general would decide that ceding the terrain in a battle could create more favourable conditions for winning the war.

A counterfactual argument would largely support the above narrative. Far from us to even suggest that Navin Ramgoolam would somehow wish for a defeat of his party’s candidate in this eventual by-election. However it remains an incontrovertible political fact that in such an event Arvin Boolell’s ambitions to challenge him as the leader of the Party would be irremediably crushed. Thus it is fair to conclude that the best outcome for Navin Ramgoolam would probably be a “moderate” win for Arvin Boolell.

As regards the MSM and the PMSD, the former has no interest at all in raising the odds about the “enjeux” of an eventual by-election. It would indeed be much better off for them to shrug it away as a most untimely and unnecessary event which is only diverting energies from the serious business of governing the country. It can in the process blame the opposition for having caused such a situation. It must be said that given the slim chances of getting a candidate elected, the MSM only stands to lose by participating.

As for the PMSD, its leader would probably be torn between his instinctive desire to support a Labour party candidate under these circumstances especially if it happens to be his “good friend” Arvin Boolell and the political imperative to put up a candidate in a constituency where he has personally been very comfortably elected. In the end, it could be the former that prevails since it can be very taxing to take part in an election (given the financial and other resources involved) half-heartedly if not reluctantly. The short odds are therefore on a non-participation of the PMSD.

Given all the above, the punter’s money would certainly be on a rather substantial win by Arvin Boolell in the case of a by-election in Constituency 18 in the next months. He is likely to obtain (1) the votes of Labour supporters who support Navin Ramgoolam, (2) the votes of Labour supporters who wish for a change of leadership, (3) the votes of the MMM supporters who would have decoded the signals, and (4) substantial votes of the PMSD supporters who wish to “vote utile”. As for the MSM supporters, in the likely scenario that their party does not have any candidate, their votes will probably be widely divided among several candidates.

Rajiv Servansingh

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