Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike's outburst against the Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao in Parliament on Wednesday is seen in political circles as a bid to curry favour with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.
In his speech on the current political situation, Bandaranaike had suddenly turned his guns on the Indian envoy and asked her not to interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka in the manner of the much disliked JN Dixit, who was known as the 'Viceroy' in the late 1980s.
Rao should concentrate on running her mission, he said.
According to political pundits here, the politically sidelined Bandaranaike said this only to get back into the good books of President Rajapakse.
It was a desperate bid to rehabilitate himself in the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and remain in the Council of Ministers.
Along with his elder sister and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, he was sidelined in the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), whose unquestioned leader now is President Mahinda Rajapakse.
While Kumaratunga lost her position as the Patron of the party, Bandaranaike was demoted from Senior Vice President to one of the Vice Presidents.
Rajapakse had been annoyed with the brother-sister duo for not campaigning for him in the December 2005 Presidential elections and then going on to build a faction within the SLFP, allegedly in connivance with the opposition United National Party (UNP).
When the efforts of the duo failed miserably (as was evident in the recent SLFP convention), and he was in danger of being sacked from the Council of Ministers, Bandaranaike had no option but to mend his fences with Rajapakse and get back into the fold quickly.
And the best way to this was to strike a nationalistic line a la Rajapakse.
In Sri Lanka, the nationalistic stance easiest to adopt is an anti-Indian stand. The favourite whipping boy of the Sri Lankan nationalists has traditionally been India and the Indian envoys.
Bandaranaike apparently expected Rajapakse to be pleased because the President himself is a staunch nationalist, who would like to keep all foreign influences at bay, including India’s, despite his oft repeated plea to New Delhi that it must play a more direct role in the Sri Lankan peace process.
In Sri Lankan politics today, nationalism and anti-foreigner feelings are running high. And the recent military victories in Sampur, Mutur and Maavil Aaru have only given these a further fillip.
However, it is doubtful if Rajapakse was impressed with Bandaranaike’s fulminations, because, being a shrewd politician who knows his onions, he is aware of Bandaranaike’s hidden agenda.
Reacting to Bandaranaike’s remark, a highly placed government source told The Island daily that Bandaranaike did not reflect the government’s views.