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Ranil hopes raja yoga will topple Rajapaksa raj

world Updated: Apr 11, 2007 14:30 IST

A new conflict is emerging in war-torn Sri Lanka. It is between opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's Raja Yoga and President Mahinda Rajapaksa's deeply entrenched Raj.

Encouraged by an astrological prediction that he is going to enjoy Raja Yoga or power to rule the land, from mid April onwards, the United National Party (UNP) chief has been making a variety of moves to topple the Rajapaksa government in April-May.

He is now outspoken on issues and has reportedly asked party MPs not to leave the country in May.

But seasoned political observers say that Wickremesinghe' dreams are baseless given the ground reality, in which the majority Sinhala community ( which is more than 80 per cent of the island's population) is solidly behind the Mahinda Rajapaksa government on issues which it considers crucial, like the conduct of the war, national security and the country's sovereignty.

Ranil's case

The UNP leader feels that issues like the sky rocketing prices of essential commodities, abduction of minority Tamils in Colombo, displacement of lakhs of Tamils in the East, alienation of the international community on human rights issues, and flaws in military strategy, are enough to bring down the government.

By using price rise, the LTTE's aerial bombing of the Katunayake airbase, and the lack of progress in the military operations in the Tamil North East, Wickremesinghe hopes to win over the Sinhala majority which is very concerned about national security and worried about rising prices.

He is saying that the government was very careless in regard to the defence of the airbase and that it is time a popular "nationalist" ex-military man like Janaka Perera was made Defence Secretary in place of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the President's brother. To the Tamil minority, he has promised to end extortions and abductions.

He has said that while the Sri Lankan cricket team is earning a good name for the country internationally, the Rajapaksa regime is earning a bad name through its human rights violations.

Wickremesinghe believes that the 18 UNP MPs who crossed over to the government side will revolt against the government soon because Rajapaksa has not given them de facto power, though they are Ministers.

The recent re-defection of Edward Gunasekara fuels hope of more re-defections.

Mahinda's strengths

But by all accounts, Rajapaksa is on a very strong wicket. A recent independent survey shows that 59 per cent of the majority Sinhala community approve of the military option he is unabashedly exercising. 53 per cent give him a clean chit on human rights.

True, the 18 UNP defectors, alliance partners, and many SLFP stalwarts are aggrieved that power is concentrated in the hands of the President and his two brothers, but they have no option but to stay put, for four reasons:-

Wickremesinghe is not an alternative because he is out of touch with the majority Sinhala community and alienated from many of his own party leaders;
Even those Sinhalas who are opposed to Rajapaksa, like the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) are supporting his hard line on the ethnic issue;
The Presidency is very powerful and Rajapaksa is capable of wielding power, as the crackdown on dissidents shows;
Both the regional power (India) and world power (United States) support his government.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) may support Wickremesinghe, but this will cost him the votes of the majority Sinhalas, who see the TNA as a proxy of the hated LTTE.