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Panday dynasty in the making

By L. Siddhartha Orie,

MANY thought back then that John the Baptist was the Christ, but he told them that there was One who was mightier than he -- One who was going to baptise them not with water as he was doing, but with the Holy Ghost and fire.

This biblical episode makes you wonder whether Kamlaís appointment as Opposition Leader is the sequel to her first appointment as Attorney General, her second coming as the harbinger, as she prepares the way for the real one?

And who might that real one be?

Considering the first episode in this political melodrama of musical chairs, one might easily jump to the conclusion that it would again be Ramesh Maharaj who would ease her out of the seat she just keeps warm for him, until the time is ripe for his own second coming.

Or, could it be that Pandayís Mafioso type manipulation of the United National Congress (UNC) from within his cell to have Kamla succeed him as Opposition Leader instead of, say Ramnath or Moonilal or even Dookeran, is an act of preparing the party, the country, for another female -- one with a Panday surname?

Rumour (which is the PR lifeblood of politics) has it that daughter Mikela is the one to replace Panday in Couva North.

At first glance, this move might appear natural and well within the law of logical deduction.

However, if we are to examine that law in a more in-depth way, it might be expedient to look at one or two dynastic families in international politics who added longevity to their cause by manipulating the base of their political genesis in the proverbial manner of a manís home being his castle, his kingdom:

When John Kennedy became President of America in 1960, his Massachusetts seat in the Senate was practically handed down (like how hand-me-down clothes are passed between siblings) to the very young Edward, so that when the time came he, too, would duly launch his presidential claim from that very State.

And up to a point he did in fact fulfill that great expectation -- except that his bid for the presidency was unsuccessful.

It nonetheless remains Kennedy territory and, who knows, one day another Kennedy might just emerge to reclaim that mystique of the Camelot throne that is considered theirs by virtue of their deed of ownership to the State of Massachusetts.

In India, the Nehru/Gandhi dynasty stakes its political claim from the constituency of Amethi, Jawaharlal Nehru buried this political navel string there and he was followed by his daughter Indira and she was followed by her son Rajiv.

Today, it remains their stronghold via Italian born Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv.

Massachusetts, Amethi and Couva North.

Do they ring a bell?

Mikelaís involvement in the UNCís politics at this time might not be the innocent coincidence as it appears at first glance.

The old saying: there might just be more in the mortar than just the pestle, is in this development, worth some deliberation.

The irony of Basdeo Pandayís conviction and incarceration is that via the sympathy it provokes among, not just his diehard supporters, but others as well, is the possibility that the Panday name could acquire a new mystique, a new resuscitation.

When leaders leave office via normal means, via political defeat or if they voluntarily resign or if they die of natural causes, even their most loyal supporters accept their departure with a sense of karmic resignation, a shrug or a shake of the head.

When, however, they leave office under tragic circumstances, they are often garlanded with a halo of martyrdom.

Whatever good they might have done attain mythical proportions.

Their bad are oft interred with their bones.

Pandayís martyrdom is guaranteed here not because he was right or in the right, not also because he was convicted and jailed, but because of the sledgehammer sentence meted out to him.

There are all kinds of criminals walking freely all over town and country courtesy the niceties of the law.
Only recently the Privy Council threw out a drug matter that was before them because Karl Hudson-Phillips, the prosecuting attorney, was said to have been overzealous in the exercise of his duties.

And there are hundreds and thousands of cases the world over where hardened criminals, repeat offenders, terrorists who kill indiscriminately, wantonly, are set free by the law because some legal nicety was overlooked, ignored in the arrest or charging or prosecuting of that criminal or some other law book civility.

One is not saying that the man should have been altogether set free if he was found guilty; what one is asking is whether it was necessary to inflict the maximum penalty, to deny him the option of bail?

It brings to mind why the Privy Council decided it was necessary to free Ramdhanie: they apparently felt that Karl had transgressed his role as prosecutor and adopted the more petty-minded, villainous and vilifying one of persecutor.

To persecute, according to one dictionary, is to harass with unjust and cruel treatment.

It also brings to mind a cricket analogy of a tail-end batsman, a true number 11, a rabbit, who has trouble to make head or tails of the bat he holds, but finds himself centre stage at the crease at Lords and decides to make a go at it.

Long handle he holds the bat, closes his eyes and swings with all his might and, yes, for sure, hits the ball for six!

Itís his moment of glory and he makes maximum use of it.

Similarly, with eyes wide shut, Panday was hit for six.

He cleared the boundary and landed inside Golden Grove.

It must be noted that what happened to Panday did not take place at the Privy Council or the Appeal Court or even the High Court, where the batting line-up is more circumspect because of its greater wisdom, its greater gift of batsmanship.

Indeed, in those more hallowed places batsmen are more likely to play forward defensive to the same ball that Mr. Rabbit hits for six.

A six in cricket is often cause for celebration; and there must be a lot of people who are celebrating this six Panday has been hit for.

Interviewed moments after the verdict was given, Professor Selwyn Ryan noted that he didnít want to sound triumphant (but couldnít help himself) as he immediately begun writing for the umpteenth time Pandayís epitaph.

The question is, why should Ryan feel triumphant if Basdeo Panday goes to jail and his political career comes to an end?

Ryan is no politician and was thus not suppose to be a natural enemy of Panday.

Panday, however, made enemies across the board, across the racial and political divide.

Some of the people who Panday (unwittingly) made enemies were those who would have put their bottom dollar up in a bet plus their whole reputation on the line that he was just a flash in the pan who was going to fizz out before long.

Because he proved so many people wrong, because he so damaged Ryanís reputation as a social scientist, a pollster, this turn of events must certainly give him/them cause to exhale.

They have held their breaths for so long it is amazing that some of them are still alive ... if only in name.

But because Panday has achieved perhaps more than what he originally set out to do, more than what was in his wildest dreams, isnít it small consolation for his detractors to now feel triumphant at this point.

Isnít it, as the saying goes, too little, too late?

Begrudge as much as they want and for as long as they want, the truth is, here is a man who came from humble beginnings, from St. Julien Village in Princess Town and against all odds, against all polls, against all his enemies, went on to be twice elected Prime Minister of TnT.

And while for sure he has had his enemies, nobody could deny that among his supporters he has been worshipped like a god; that in Hindu homes across the country Pandayís picture was/is often to be found alongside those of the gods they pray to and believe in.

For those who hate the name Panday as much as the man himself, it is possible that it would continue to haunt them as there now seems for sure something of a Panday dynasty in the making.

So when you think the old Silver Fox is heading into oblivion and that his name would soon be erased from our memories (although that is hardly likely -- considering what an impact he has had in the life of TnT for over 30 years) up comes Mikela Panday and Nicola Panday and Subhas is still around and he, too, has a daughter who might also be in the reckoning sometime in the future.

So the question comes back to Kamla, whether she is the anointed one or whether she is just going to be holding the fort, firstly, for Ramesh and then, down the road, he too, makes way for the real successors, the dynasty of Basdeo Panday?

Trinidad and Tobago News

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