The PPP leadership should take serious note of Mr Ralph Ramkarran’s analysis, ‘The PPP and the challenges ahead‘ (SN, Dec 2) on the party’s political stock some 20 years after being in government. The party has made too many mistakes, unforced errors, blunders, since being in government (especially after Dr Jagan’s demise) as well as in the election campaign last year that cost it its majority. Had the party listened to the critics and the pleas from its base, it would not have found itself in such a precarious or bleak position as described by Mr Ramkarran. And the departure of Mr Ramkarran from the PPP earlier this year has placed the party in an even more difficult position.
Immediately after it ‘lost‘ (voter support declined) last year’s election, it was advised by supporters and overseas analysts to do some introspection and a study on why its voter support went down, why so many of its loyal supporters decided to stay home instead of turn out to vote or jumped ship to the AFC, and to take remedial action to win back its base. As an independent thinker, I recall I also penned pieces in the newspapers urging President (and General Secretary) Donald Ramotar to commission a study on the debacle suffered by the party last year, so it could take corrective measures to win back those who left the party. As we are learning from Mr Ramkarran now, apparently, no such study or introspection was undertaken. It was mostly business as usual for the last year with the party behaving as if all is well and that it will win the next election with a majority because of the blunders committed by the AFC and APNU. The PPP leadership has it all wrong. Although many of those who voted for the AFC and APNU are angry, they are not ready to re-embrace the PPP because the party has not shown it is willing to reform, and exile discredited politicians whose public behaviour (and hubris) cost the party the election. Apathy is growing and while the AFC is likely to get wiped out in the next election because of its misreading of those Indians who cast ballots for it, the PPP may not be the beneficiary of disgruntled AFC supporters – they may just stay home like the thousands of other PPP supporters.
When the party prepared for the polls last year, its leadership was repeatedly warned by objective independent analysts and thinkers (sympathizers) from New York that it would have a difficult time crossing the 50% mark in votes. It was advised what actions to take to win over fence-sitters and disgruntled former supporters so it could retain its majority. But the leadership slammed the analysts publicly and privately saying they would get 60% of the votes.
They paid no heed to objective poll numbers showing the party support declining. The leadership chose to listen to and believe discredited party hawks who told them what they wanted to hear and they paid the price. Even during the campaign, the party was warned that the tone of their speakers was turning off its supporters as were the lascivious music and lewd dancing. The wine and dancing was turning off many party supporters as they could not relate to that kind of culture. The overseas artistes did not draw the crowd the PPP wanted and in fact turned off their own base. No one was punished for the miscalculations and unworkable campaign strategies. And a year later, it appears the party is still not listening to its base.
I was recently in Guyana measuring popular support for the parties. The oft-repeated complaint among the PPP supporters is “abe fed up” – tired of the PPP not listening to them and or taking measures to address their complaints. They are upset that the leadership continues to foist the same discredited politicians on them – the same politicians and officials who ignored the people‘s cry for help. Some party MPs and officials have been visiting communities in recent months. But these outreach visits have been largely failures because the visitors have not been meeting with the bulk of the disenchanted, and often the visitors surround themselves with the discredited local leaders who are a turn-off to the disgruntled. The people want to see and talk more to President Ramotar and respected individuals like Ramkarran, Navin Chanderpal, Ashni Singh, Anil Nandlall, etc.
I endorse the recommendations offered by Mr Ramkarran on reconciliation, working with the opposition for national development, and revamping (reforming) the PPP, especially with regard to choosing the leader and candidates for elections. Just this weekend, the Italian leftists (former communists) allowed their members to choose the leader who will head the party’s list for general elections. The PPP should follow suit and like the Italians loosen the rules for membership and the holding of executive posts.
Recall Moses Nagamootoo left the PPP because of the leadership’s refusal to heed his demand on the party membership choosing the presidential candidate in a secret ballot. Mr Nagamootoo’s departure cost the PPP its majority. Since then, the party lost more ground with Mr Ramkarran’s departure. About the only thing saving the PPP right now from losing more support is the many mistakes made by the combined opposition on critical issues. The opposition has been frightening the PPP base to return home en masse.
Mr Ramkarran’s analysis is spot on. It is introspection that the PPP should have done a year ago in order to address the reasons for the departure of so many voters from the party, if it is to make a turnaround. The party should use Mr Ramkarran’s analysis as a starting point for further investigations in order to assess its political future.