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Raffique Shah


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The lion in winter- A pitiful sight

By Raffique Shah
September 23, 2007

Last week, looking at a television clip of two jokers from Laventille hugging and dancing with UNC officials, celebrating the "strengthening" of Basdeo Panday's new alliance to fight the PNM, I was almost reduced to tears. A few nights before that sorry sight, Bas was on a platform begging Winston Dookeran to join forces with the fast-fading UNC in order to defeat the ruling PNM at elections which should be called sometime before mid-December. Matters not how he couched this umpteenth attempt to woo back Winston, it was undisguised political vagrancy.

Several thoughts ran through my mind as I witnessed the demise of a man who, in his prime, boasted of his prowess being greater than that of a lion. One was karma. It must occur to him that his many acts of vengeance against persons who had done him nothing wrong are returning to haunt him. In his heyday, he often boasted that the political graveyard was littered with the tombstones of those he had unceremoniously buried. What he has never admitted is that in his quest for supremacy, for absolute control over any and everyone, he created his own glass coffin that is now suffocating him. Because while he's still capable of fooling many into believing he's God's gift to politics, to his "victims" he was always a living lie.

He is a person so consumed with hatred that he fails to notice that, except for the creatures he created in his likeness and image-meaning those who crave wealth and power-others have moved on to live fulfilling lives. They enjoy peace of mind, many still serve the country in different ways, and when night falls, instead of having to rush hither, thither and yon fooling fools, they sleep comfortably in their humble abodes. Nightmares are for the wicked to endure.

And nightmares are what Panday is experiencing during daytime. A few weeks ago, when he teamed up with those upon whom he had previously heaped scorn, I noted that he got his arithmetic all wrong. Now he has compounded his errors by adding two people who amount to so many minuses; if he had a hope of winning votes in the Laventille district, they have evaporated. From the look of things, it would have been better to link up with Fresh's fresh ghost, since the latter seems to have won the hearts and minds of priests, paupers and pump-gunners.

He looks around in his core constituencies and what does he see? Outside of the Panday-till-ah-die set, which, I should add, is also the rum-till-ah-die posse, many within his party are begging him to exit the stage to give them a fighting chance against the COP and the PNM. The fed-ups have already abandoned the death watch, opting either to stay out of the fray, to team up with Dookeran who offers them an outside chance, or even to support the PNM in the hope of sharing in the largesse that goes with power. For all his sanctimonious pronouncements, PNM leader Patrick Manning knows only too well that "money buyeth votes". It was the same with Panday when he was in office, except that he "ran de bread" to the bakers, not the workers.

I wrote recently that Manning seemed to be trying very hard to lose the elections, which would be quite a feat if he does achieve it. If politics is the art of the possible, politicians are adept at making the impossible possible (try to figure out that one!). A united opposition might have given the PNM a run for all its money. But Panday, this self-styled master of unity politics, has been exposed for what he always was-as divisive a politician as one could find.

Think of it: a UNC comprising all those who now support the COP, Panday's core support, and add those who are blasted vex with Manning. This combination might have stood a chance of unseating the PNM. Instead, Panday-and the sycophants who surround him-has put paid to that prospect.

They hurl abuse at "Dooks" every time they open their mouths, and that long before he mustered the guts to walk out of the lion's dirty den. They cuss his colleagues. They behave in a most disgraceful manner on platforms. They believe that ranting and raving, ignoring the liability that their leader has become, will win hearts, minds and votes.

They fail to come to terms with the reality that those who remain blinded by Bas will forever remain blind. "Bas till ah die" is no different to "PNM till ah die". And that is what remains for the lion who once roared-the dregs of a support base that once counted for something. Linking up with nonentities will get the UNC nowhere. These jokers who puff up their chests when they are introduced as "leader of this or that" must know they are dried plum seeds to be spat out at Panday's earliest convenience.

The lion is clearly past his winter: a pitiful sight as he awaits his tombstone.