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Amazing re-emergence of two leaders: Nixon and Rajapaksa.

Washington, June 18 -- Republican Party presidential nominee at the 1960 election Richard M. Nixon, the incumbent vice president, lost the election to Democratic Party John F. Kennedy with a razor thin vote.

The incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January 2008 election too lost by a razor thin vote.

But there was a difference: Nixon's political future was written off; Rajapaksa was in political wilderness for about two months. And seems to have now emerged.

Nixon went on to lose the California State governor's election in 1962 for America to conclude that he had no future prospects at all. Contrary to political pundits' forecasts, Richard Milhouse Nixon was propelled to White House at the 1968 presidential election.

At a very young age Nixon manifested how defeat could be transformed into victory: When Richard Nixon was three years old, he sat on a neighbor's lap in a horse-drawn buggy being driven by his mother. The buggy took a sharp turn around a corner at high speed, hurling the boy violently to the ground. As his mother struggled to stop the horse, her young child summoned his courage, picked himself up, and ran after the buggy.

He later recalled the incident as his first conscious memory. After he fell, his first instinct was not to withdraw in pain but to get back up, to run, and to challenge the fate that had befallen him. Decades later, the image provides a poignant metaphor for a life spent running and falling and running again.

In political life Mahinda Rajapaksa would have fallen many times. He was ignominiously defeated at the 1977 parliamentary election. He used the defeat to summon courage to mobilize the masses through human rights activities, visiting the UNHRC in Geneva to present the mass massacres of thousands of youths during the JVP insurrection, convene Mothers' Front and work with the grass roots of his political party the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

When the Party was deserted by many, he stood behind it during good and worst times.

Many historians recall that in defeat, Richard Nixon closely worked with his party, the Republican, with state party officials, helped the party at mid-term Congressional elections to revitalize the party machinery during a long presidency under the Democratic Party.

I quote a political commentator.

(Quote) He was a controversial president, a renowned elder statesman, and a complicated American figure, but he was also just a man---and a good and decent one. He wanted to be remembered as a man who brokered peace between nations, but he should also be remembered as a man who ran, fell, picked himself up, and ran again, through a half century of our history, in a relentless drive to make peace for---and with---his country, and ultimately, with himself.

He was once asked how history will remember him, and he replied, "The judgment of history depends on who writes it." I believe history will be far kinder to Nixon than his contemporaries were, and he will ultimately be considered one of the great modern presidents. Flawed, yes. But he was a tremendously influential leader possessing that rarest of intellectual gifts---vision---and the extraordinary courage to carry it out. This cannot be said for all presidents: Nixon mattered. (End Quote)

Historically, the United States has never witness a 'Come Back Kid'. And, Sri Lanka too has never witnessed a remarkable recovery and return the manner in which Rajapaksa has catapulted to the political scene in a short period.

Rajapaksa too was a controversial president; a complicated Sri Lankan figure; Nixon brokered peace among nations including China, Rajapaksa, in a very strange way, brokered peace in defeating a secessionist movement that the Western nations repeatedly said could not be done. Both Nixon and Rajapaksa " ran, fell, picked up, and ran again".

A year before the death of veteran socialist leader Dr. Colvin R. de Silva told a group of us at a American Embassy luncheon, if the parliament was won by a political party opposed to the party to which the president belonged, the presidency could be disabled. He was talking about two power centers. With Mahinda Rajapaksa's amazing recovery and emergence, there seem to be three power centers, and if President Sirisena and his SLFP act wisely, his presidency could be strengthened with the entry of now nation-wide popular Rajapaksa at his side.

Never in the history of both Sri Lanka and the United States defeated leaders had been epicenter of mass movement as seen in Richard Nixon's return to power and Mahinda Rajapaksa being mobbed by the masses of the people catapulting him to be a tremendously influential leader.

Of course, like Richard Milhouse Nixon, Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa too was flawed. Surrounded by half-baked personalities who tarnished his image and corrupted his regime.

But both were 'Come Back Kids'.

Richard Nixon lost a nail-biter to John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. Two years later, he lost in his bid to become California's governor. He promised the press they would "not have Nixon to kick around anymore." Nixon went into the wilderness to re-emerge in 1968 as the Republican frontrunner. The American voter wanted order, a resolution to Vietnam, and competent government. After eight years of Democratic rule, they turned to Richard Nixon.

Mahinda Rajapaksa lost a nail-biter to Maitripala Sirisena in the January 2009 presidential election. The minority government of Ranil Wickremasinghe lost its path even before the One Hundred Day Program was completed. Mr. Wickremasinghe and Mr. Sirisena inherited a LTTE-free nation. And the masses of the people knew that. The masses never forgot the leadership Mahinda Rajapaksa provided to bring that peace after thirty years. Despite their confidence and faith in President Sirisena, the masses had entertained some doubt about his minority partner Mr. Wickremasinghe. It is this scenario that the masses, who wanted to teach a lesson to the Rajapaksa administration at the January polls started gravitating toward Mahinda Rajapaksa who has now become the epicenter of a Third Mass Movement.

There were parallels to Nixon and Rajapaksa stories. As noted above, never in the history of these two countries such occurrences have taken place: return of Richard Milhouse Nixon and the amazing emergence of Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian Tribune.

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Publication:Asian Tribune (India)
Date:Jun 18, 2015
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