By Suhas Chakma
Continued from yesterday
In recent years, India’s support for political parties in the neighbouring countries has been critical for the electoral results at home and international recognition. Though the Maoists of Nepal won the constituent assembly elections in April 2008 despite India’s suspicion on the Maoists, the Nepali Congress and the CPN–UML with the support of India trounced the Maoists in the elections held in December 2013. In the parliamentary elections held in Bangladesh in January 2014, the Awami League won 153 out of 300 parliamentary seats even before the first vote was cast as the opposition Bangladesh National Party boycotted the elections, and India’s unstinted support to the Awami League was critical for its recognition at international level. In Bhutan, the People’s Democratic Party stormed into power in July 2013 after India stopped kerosene supply to Bhutan just prior to the elections to send a clear message of India’s disapproval of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa government whose then Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley dared to meet then Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of Rio+20 summit in June 2012 in Brazil. India’s role in the Maldives has been cluttered as India initially supported ouster of then President Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012 following opening of the Chinese embassy in Male in December 2011 but came around to support Nasheed against Abdulla Yameen, with whom New Delhi has made peace after Yameen won the Presidential elections in November 2013.
In this context, the visit of India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Sri Lanka on 2 December has significance beyond the Galle Dialogue 2014 that Mr Doval addressed. Doval’s meeting, among others, with joint opposition Presidential candidate Sirisena, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and leaders of the TNA had significant impact to shape up the united opposition and unify the minority leaders against Rajapaksa. President Rajapaksa might have the support of Beijing. However, India has been far ahead on propping up favourable regimes in neighbouring countries than China, which is at loss with intricacies of electoral politics, and feels more comfortable to deal with the dictators or their families.
Nonetheless, Sri Lankans deserve free and fair elections. Skullduggery on the day of the vote cannot be ruled out, more so because the most powerful of the Rajapaksa brothers, Defence Secretary Gotabaya, fears possible indictment by the UN CoI which is scheduled to submit its report to the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015. International community must monitor the 2015 Presidential election and take effective measures if Sri Lankans are denied less than free and fair elections.
President Rajapaksa called the snap elections two years ahead of the current term to prolong the family rule. This decision is a clear indication in itself that that irrespective of the outcome, the end of the Rajapaksa dynasty has become irreversible. The cheap tactics adopted by Rajapaksa to invite Bollywood actor Salman Khan to campaign for him only proves his desperation. Both the defeat of President Rajapaksa in the elections on 8th January 2015 and indictment of Gotabaya by UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Sri Lanka remain within the realm of possibilities. (Concluded)