WIll there be another operation Lal Dora? That is the question that we need to ask and if that is one of the options that the MSM leadership is hoping for, then we ought to be prepared for a fresh coup in the country.
But what was the reason behind Operation Lal Dora? It was a masterminded plot to prevent a non-Hindu to become the Prime Minister of Mauritius and this baffles many until today!
What was Operation Lal Dora?
It was a plot to prevent Paul Berenger the leader and Prime Ministerial candidate of the MMM to become the first non-Hindu PM of Mauritius in the wake of the 1983 elections.
At that time there were rumours that Berenger was plotting to overthrow the crippled government of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth with the help of the Russians, and perhaps that of the Libyans of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
But all these were overblown assumptions made by the people within the corridors of power, aided by officials from the Indian Embassy in Port Louis.
In 1983, the country was ripe for change, one more time, right after the 1982’s admirable 60-0 victory by the MMM-PSM (Parti Socialist Mauricien) victory in the famous June 11th election.
I believe I was right in my assertions back then in 1982-1983 that our good friend Harish Boodhoo played a major role in the breaking of the MMM-PSM coalition. The fact that he dissolved the PSM with such speed – without even having an iota of regret or an afterthought – proved me right. History proves me right today.
To confirm the theories of what really happened prior to the Lal Dora Ops, WFTV was given a copy of an unedited manuscript of a soon to be published book on the political landscape in Mauritius before the 1983’s MSM-Labour victory.
The book describes the backdoor dealings between the parties in power, the involvement of Indira Gandhi’s India in changing the political landscape and the fears of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth.
Those fears were probably planted by his minority ally in the government, the PSM with the aim of stoking division among the MMM leadership to divide the father-son likeable relationship SAJ had with Berenger. This poison ivy strategy is actually being used in today’s politics and we will get on these details soon.
Formation of the MSM
The MSM was formed after Boodhoo dissolved the PSM which then regrouped with the remaining ex-MMM Members of Parliament following the MMM’s retreat from the coalition.
That left Sir Aneerood Jugnauth (SAJ) without much support in the Parliament and the government was on the brink of total collapse when something incredible happened: The MSM was formed, with SAJ as leader and Harish Boodhoo as deputy leader while the Labour Party joined the MSM in power, with the support of the PMSD.
It was incredible since the Labour and PMSD opposition parties had only 7 members in Parliament at that time, but it was sufficient for SAJ to have them onboard in order to constitute a new government until he would decide to go for the 1983 elections.
Now, we have to know what really happened in the country that led to the ‘Operation Lal Dora’ by the Indian government, which was a master coup in itself, according to the author of the book we mentioned above.
In its chapter 8 entitled ‘Intrigues, Superpower Rivalry and the 1983 General Elections’ the Lal Dora is explained in vivid details.
The book said Lal Dora involved two battalions from India’s 54th Infantry Division from Hyderabad that would land in Port Louis.
Operation Lal Dora was, however, marked by rivalry, disagreement and poor coordination between the Indian Army and the Indian Navy.
The Navy believed they could sail to Mauritius carrying the troops within seven days including two days preparation and five days on the sea.
“In the War Room in South Block in New Delhi senior military and intelligence officers met with Mrs Gandhi,” the author wrote.
But the disagreements within the army was rife and it prompted Mrs Gandhi to play an astute game with the minds of her Mauritian friends in power, triggering an electoral campaign rigged with racist slurs but one that revealed a totally different Aneerood Jugnauth.
SAJ had the difficulty of roping the majority of the population behind his newly assembled group of rag-tags political opponents into one basket and this was not well received by the population.
He had to battle it out hard, but his victory is today attributed to the Lal Dora’s failed ops.
But it is the plot devised by Mrs Gandhi that is more interesting though.
She was probably aware that her own Army, Lieutenant General, S.K. Sihna, was leaking information to the US Army. Sihna had a difficult relationship with Mrs. Gandhi.
According to the author, two reasons were advanced for the failed ‘coup’.
The first one was the marked disagreement. Panda (2015) wrote:
‘The Indian Army and Navy exhibited a tremendous lack of coordination; their most senior leaders saw each other as adversaries,’ p.2.
The second one, and by far the most pertinent and relevant, was that the shrewd and calculating Indira Gandhi never intended to implement her plan but merely used it as a leverage to ensure other Mauritian Leaders to rally behind Anerood Jugnauth.
Indira Gandhi’s India was a staunch ally of the MMM in the run-up to the 1982 elections, giving support to SAJ and accepting Berenger as his number 2.
Unraveling the plot
Indira Gandhi and India were indirectly deciding the fate of Mauritians!
“It is quite likely that the Indian Government or Mrs Indira Gandhi could have applied the leverage to force Hindu leaders of other political factions to rally behind Anerood Jugnauth, with or without the latter’s explicit knowledge.
“Jugnauth, however, denied any knowledge of the operation or Indira Gandhi’s stratagem. According to an interview conducted in May 2012 by Ranjit Rao with Prem Singh, the then Indian High Commissioner in Port Louis, a rumour had boomed out that the Indian Army had surrounded Mauritius,” wrote the author.
The book said Indira Gandhi rapidly replaced the aborted plan by the despatch of N.F. Sunkook, a RAW officer about to retire, to Mauritius. Together with Singh, Sunkook gave a helping hand to H. Boodhoo, persuading other Hindu and Muslim leaders to shift their support to Jugnauth (Brewster and Rai 2013).
“This explained to a large extent the rapid dissolution of the PSM and the formation of the MSM, which also coincided with Sunkook’s departure, presumably after completing his mission.
“It is also eloquent why Satcam Boolell subsequently revised his stand, dissolved the MPM, and joined the LP and the Jugnauth-led bandwagon without further fuss. The nation was never so polarized in terms of political and ethnic loyalty since Independence.” said the book, which proves why I believe Boodhoo broke the MMM-PSM alliance.
What happens now?
India has since then changed its views of Mauritius. It played a great part in bringing Mauritius where it is today, and the double-taxation treaty has served Mauritius in an enormous way.
But the current administration in New Delhi has other plans, and it does not want to be involved in a murky, dirty political game that is being played in Port Louis where its ‘investments’ and its geopolitical and strategic gameplan in the Indian Ocean risks falling apart.
And this is what many Mauritians are not finding it easy to understand, still questioning why WFTV published the stories that we did since June this year.
There is a plot that is being played now by the current leadership within the MSM, hoping that India will fall for the plan, a plan that may be similar to the Operation Lal Dora. But Lal Dora Two may never happen since New Delhi seems bent on pushing the MSM-ML regime out of its plans.
The reason is simple: They want a clean, mean regime to be in power in Port Louis in order to ensure that its geopolitical and strategic plays are not jeopardised.
It also wants a clean, neat leader to take over the country’s leadership, in order to avoid the failings that it suffered under the Labour Party’s 9 years in power under former PM Navin Ramgoolam.
New Delhi is seen increasingly wary of what is happening in Port Louis nowadays amid all the allegations, scandals, and pitiless exercise of imposing the unpopular government’s will on the people.
While it is paramount for India that Mauritius has a solid and stable government in order to preserve New Delhi’s military and diplomatic influence in the Indian Ocean, this time around the Narendra Modi regime has a different mindset.
WFTV will tell more about what to expect from New Delhi.