I want to applaud Ganga Singh for his enlightened stance in the politics seeking to accommodate the diversity that is T&T through a framework involving a coalition of the various elements in the society. In this call, he seems to put the country first looking ahead at a possible electoral victory for the coalition he calls for and a consequent policy line that would embrace all the people. It is instructive, though, that he is taking a position that is at variance with that of his party, which despite all the talk about unity, is basically tribal in its configuration, as much as the other main party is. But his call is rooted in his party’s history of success, for the UNC would have only won when in coalition—first with the NAR in 1986 and then again with the coalition of 2010.
Yet his political leader would disregard this critical lesson of history and reject his proposal which would likely lead to failure in 2020, and one wonders why? One commentator in the Express of January 30, 2019, suggests that if she could make such a declaration even before a debate it is a marker of the tremendous power she possesses in her party, which indeed she has, having survived the iconic Panday and others in her leadership quest, and now acquiring “mai” or “guru” status in a party culture where to question or oppose her is sacrilege with irretrievable consequences, as some big wigs in her party have come to discover.
And perhaps this stance of hers is about maintaining that power, for a coalition with possible leadership contenders can only detract from her hard-won de facto leadership position in the party, bringing in possible dissenters who may want to question that leadership. On the same wavelength, broadening the base of the party may have a similar consequence. Bringing in "external" elements may detract from the absolute and unquestioning loyalty which she now enjoys with her diehard supporters within the tightly knit tribal framework that is the UNC.
This unquestioning loyalty is amply demonstrated in her attempt on Sunday to rationalise her stance by attempting a difference between "unity" and a "coalition" when both are connotatively on the same continuum, but none of her supporters would dare ask a question about the seeming contradiction, having been duped by the idea of "unity" as the viable alternative. Nor would they question her stance to go it alone, although historically, such a stance never really won the UNC an election.
But Kamla, even as "mai" and the "guru" to her supporters, is no Gandhi, and in her ordinary humanity she can only succumb to the vagaries associated with the psychology of power and survive at all cost. As to Ganga, enlightened as his stance is in calling for a party for all the people as against one only for the tribe, he too is a victim of the vagaries of power, for the politics tell him that if he seems diametrically opposed to her, he is a goner, for politics is not about principle and self-respect, but about survival, irrespective. So his about-turn in supporting his leader who has rejected him should be no conscience call for him!
Dr Errol Benjamin