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Dr Winford James

Akash Samaroo

Political analyst Dr Winford James believes while Kamla Persad-Bissessar will retain her position as leader of the United National Congress (UNC), her challenger Vasant Bharath is better suited for growing the party’s base.

Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday, Dr James said he believed Bharath can capture the attention of “urban Indos” and “non Indos”.

“He has better political answers, better governance answers to the questions posed to him with respect to leadership of the UNC. He seems quite knowledgeable and he seems to command the attention of the more urban Indos who are not all in favour of Mrs Persad-Bissessar. He has a better chance of also winning over the non Indos if only because, they don’t know him as well as they know Mrs Persad-Bissessar.”

However, Dr James believes the ‘grass-root’ supporters will keep Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the helm of the party. Dr James said Bharath put himself at a disadvantage by not remaining visible in the last 5 years.

“And to win over the grassroots you have to be within the party, contending within the party which might be a mistake that he made, the mistake being that he has receded into the background so to speak because he didn’t like what was going on. But having done so he probably forfeited his plan to overcome Mrs Persad-Bissessar.”

The last two attempts to wrestle away leadership of the party from Persad-Bissessar ended with landslide victories for the Political Leader. In fact, in 2015, Bharath lost to her by over 16,000 votes. Dr James believes nothing will change this Sunday because despite losing two consecutive General Elections, Persad-Bissessar has a strong relatability factor.

“I can hazard a guess as to why she is so popular, probably the greatest part of the membership is women, I can also say Mrs Persad-Bissessar comes across as identifying more closely than Vasant with the grassroots of the country. She mingles more with them and you get the impression that she echoes their thoughts.”

Dr James said Bharath may be regarded by some as standoffish, aloof and not in touch.