NEW DELHI, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The victory of Mahinda Rajapakse in a closely fought Sri Lankan presidential election will hamper the peace-process between Colombo and the Liberation of Tigers for Tamil Eelam, causing worry for India, Indian political analysts said Monday.
Sri Lanka could soon join the group of neighboring countries that have been causing problems for New Delhi as Rajapakse, new president of the island country, could bolster Sinhala nationalism, putting the February peace process under great stress, said A.B. Mahapatra, senior political analyst.
He said with Rajapakse's victory, India's recent relaxed attitude to Sri Lanka will be put to the test because he represents Sinhala nationalism. Mahapatra said his credibility among Tamils in the island country is very low and it would trigger resentment among the minority.
Rajapakse, after being elected president, sought to allay fear among the Tamil minority, wanting to talk to LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran directly. The LTTE has not taken him seriously.
Rajapakse was elected as the president of Sri Lanka Friday after he defeated Ranil Wickremasinghe of United National party by a narrow margin in a tight election in which minority Tamils did not participate. During his election campaign, Rajapakse built up a platform that challenged the very idea of federalism that is central to the peace process between LTTE rebels and the federal government seeking a solution to the two-decades-long ethnic crisis.
"Another reason for Tamils not trusting Rajapakse is his main electoral ally, Janata Vimukti Peramuna, that championed Sinhala Chauvinism," said a former Indian diplomat, who was posted at the Indian mission in Colombo during the period of ethnic conflict. "This is a victory for peace and I stand by that," Rajapakse of United People's Alliance said after being declared victor.
The election was closely fought, with Rajapakse and Wickremesinghe each winning 11 of the 22 electoral districts. Rajapakse polled 4,887,152 votes, beating Wickremesinghe (4,706,366 votes), by a margin of 180,786 votes.
"Rajapakse has secured 50.29 per cent of the valid votes cast, crossing the legally required 50 per cent mark by a margin of 28,632 votes. Wickremesinghe polled 48.53 percent vote," said the Chief Election Commissioner of Sri Lanka, announcing Rajapakse's victory.
Experts say Rajapakse's victory was a result of polarized Sinhalese electoral and the boycott by the Tamil minority voters in the northern and eastern district. Rajapakse scored well in Sinhalese majority districts, Wickremesinghe got votes from the districts with mixed population of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese.
"No candidate has a mandate as hundreds and thousands of voters who were prevented from exercising their franchise in the north, east and south exceeded the victory margin by the Prime Minister," said a United National Alliance statement released after the result.
Rajapakse was the prime minister of Sri Lanka while he ran for the presidency. The election was held Nov. 17 after the Supreme Court quashed a petition filed by then President Chandrika Kumaratunga seeking a one-year extension of her term which expires this month.
The Opposition urged the Court to direct the Election Commission to hold the presidential election as scheduled. The Court's verdict upheld the opposition's view and asked the Election Commission to prepare for voting.
"It was not a right move on the part of Prabhakaran to prevent people in his stronghold Tamil majority regions, from voting. That way he ensured the defeat of Wickremesinghe, who had broken the Sinhalese majority domination during his tenure as President," said R. Venkataram ananalyst at The Telegraph newspaper.
Experts at the Indian foreign establishment are closely watching developments in the island country.
"They have been analyzing the fallout of the result of the election," said a senior Foreign Ministry official.
The defeat of Wickremesinghe has come as a setback to India because it was banking on him to bring peace and put an end to the ethnic conflict.
"He was the one who generated long-awaited pause in Island's brutal civil war and gave hope to reasonable elements within Tamil and Muslim minorities," said Mahapatra, the analyst.
Another analyst was of the view that tge LTTE's boycott was to ensure the defeat of Wickremesinghe, give credence to the fear Prabhakaran was moving toward renewing the civil war.
In the coming days, India will have to be prepared to play the role of peace broker in Colombo. New Delhi could be called upon to prevent a breakdown of peace process.
"There is tough time ahead for the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in dealing with Colombo and LTTE as allies of southern Tamil Nadu of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, who sympathize with the LTTE rebels would attempt to complicate the situation," said Venkataram.
The experts say Singh should quickly control the country's policy toward Sri Lanka before it takes a dangerous turn and threatens the stability of his coalition government.