Reading the tea leaves

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All the signs that Paul Bérenger is either inching his way towards the MSM or hedging his bets, are there. Including his vehement denials. And these signs seem to reinforce as the weeks go by, not diminish. Of course, no political party is likely to face the electorate on its own, in spite of the rhetoric. But that should surely not lead to the opposition becoming chummy with the government in place, just as soon as there is a whiff of elections in the air.

No political observer will have failed to notice that the rhetoric adopted in the MMM weekly press conferences is slowly but surely changing and becoming less strong, more accommodating and is even taking cues from the government’s full-time propagandists.

Admittedly, Bérenger is still popping up every week to chime in on the issues plaguing the country, and repeating the mantra that has become familiar to all of us: “Nou pou al tou sel” (we will go it alone). Notice however that, for the first time, a caveat has slipped into this position statement: “Unless there is a major upheaval (bouleversement)”, though he did say he wasn’t expecting any – as if an upheaval could be predicted.

 Also noted is that he is no longer seething with dissatisfaction about what he used to qualify as an incompetent, corrupt government, laden with suspicious people involved in alleged drug activities. This has slowly made way for a government which is not entirely bad. In one of his most recent press conferences, Bérenger has even given a list of the people who are holding the government back and asked for their dismissal. This list is now surprisingly short and is confined to “a few people who put us to shame like Tarolah, Rutnah, Soodhun, Yerrigadoo, Choomka, Teeluckdharry, Dayal, Sesungkur, Gulbul, Maunthrooa, Sumputh, Hanoomanjee, Jadoo.” This is the safest list one can draw up, and must beautifully coincide with the list that Pravind Jugnauth must have in mind. Admittedly, Bérenger did add: “and I can keep going”, but he didn’t. He carefully spared even Gayan and Collendavelloo, who have been washed very clean. As for Pravind Jugnauth, he has been masterfully and systematically spared from Bérenger’s usually acerbic criticism.  You can’t ruffle the hairs of those you are hoping to soon hop into bed with, can you? All the arrows are therefore being aimed straight to the serial blunderers who – everyone knows – have lost all favours with the prime minister.

Any observer with a modicum of political experience can see clearly that this strategy dovetails very well with the image that Jugnauth’s PR propaganda team has been working very hard to build. Bérenger is playing his part for free: Forget about all the nepotism, the outrageous cronyism, the criminal waste of public funds, the state capture through the appointment of very partisan members in key crucial institutions that should be above party politics. Forget about the BAI and Betamax with its Rs5 billion award increasing every day.  Heck, forget about all the opacity, arrogance and grabbing of power through the backdoor. Forget about our institutions, most of which have turned into doormats with many not even hiding this anymore. Why, forget about the biggest scourge our country is suffering from: Drugs. When was the last time Bérenger or indeed any other member of the opposition, asked what the hell the pompous Task Force has been doing since it was entrusted with the Lam Shan Leen report? Now, Bérenger and all the propaganda machines are on the same page: painting Jugnauth as a helpless victim who has absolutely no responsibility in the upheavals introduced or reinforced in the last four years!  There is more than a hint of grovelling in this approach.

Yet, the MMM might never get a second chance to do what is has been claiming it wants to do: going it alone! That would also allow us to gauge the weight of each party. For once!

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