An official member of the People’s National Movement (PNM) for eight years, Subhase Chandrabhose “Bhose” Sharma is comfortable leading the battle to remove Dr Keith Rowley from the leadership of the party.
He says he is not afraid of any backlash from the party.
He told the Sunday Express in an interview that he does “not feel alienated”.
Sharma is a frontline personality in attorney Pennelope Beckles’ camp.
She is the main contender against Rowley.
Sharma says that his one man show behind Beckles will be short-lived since “powerful forces” are backing her and will reveal themselves when they are ready.
Sharma is a licensed pundit and executive member of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.
A failed candidate for St Augustine for the PNM in the 2010 general elections, Sharma remains a virtual unknown outside of the party but has gained a fair degree of attention as Beckles’ spokesman.
He told the Sunday Express he is not on Beckles’ slate and his sole aim was to ensure she wins office and that the PNM internal elections are free and fair and the machinery works well come May 18.
But he said he is not alone in his quest.
Sharma, an optometrist, said that Beckles is enjoying the support of a group of “powerful” backers, inside and out of the party, but who are not yet ready to show their faces, for fear of a “backlash”.
Sharma said this group wanted Beckles to take on Rowley since December last year, when he fired her from the Senate.
He made the point to illustrate that while she was “gentle and quiet”, Beckles was not going to be easily manipulated by any shadowy “cabal”. He also said she is not going to use any “gender” card since she is simply a leader who happens to be a woman.
He thinks Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is a good minister but a poor leader because of the people she listens to.
“What has happened is that our PM showed poor judgment not only because of the people she listened to, but her poor judgement in appointing people like Reshmi (Ramnarine), and ministers, and chairmen of boards etc. She is a good minister but has poor leadership qualities.”
Assessing the PM’s leadership, he said, “If you look at the country, it is as fractured as the cracks on a morocoy’s back. Penny on the other hand has shown the opposite…she is strong and she has very competent persons around her. The thing is, if she was easily manipulated, she would have moved for the leadership before now because there were strong forces telling her at the time she was fired to take on Rowley, but she did not do it.
Only last week she decided ‘I have the support in the country and the party, and therefore I will do it now.’”
Asked if his was the most persuasive voice to convince her to run for the post, Sharma laughed: “No, not really. We wanted her to come out since last year and take on Rowley but she wanted to talk to the constituents of Arima, the Women’s League, her family, and she also wanted to have a conversation with Dr Rowley. She said she must clear the way with the organisations and groups she belongs to before saying anything.”
Sharma is a lecturer in the optometry programme at The University of the West Indies and describes himself as “an all-inclusive, all embracing person”.
He said racism was not in his character since he was brought up around all kinds of people.
“I have been working in the party for a very long time and was a close friend with Ken Valley. I was born in San Juan and was one of the few Indians to attend Nelson Street Boys.”
Sharma said he is involved in the national eye surgery programme.
He is the father of four children, three of whom are medical specialists.
He said that not all of them were happy with his decision to become so involved in the politics.
He said his role in the PNM has always been to work to make it better.
He told the Sunday Express that he rallied through former prime minister Patrick Manning’s administration but after Manning’s fall from power in 2010 and Rowley taking over the reins, Sharma said he was personally affected by the changes initiated by the new leader.
He admitted that at the time he accepted Ken Valley’s invitation to get involved in the PNM, he also had friends in the UNC and they had asked him to come across.
“But I didn’t like the politics at the time. I worked with Manning and when he left, I worked with Rowley. I worked with Jerry Narace (former minister and PRO of the party) and I practically ran the public relations until I was asked not to stand in favour of Faris Al-Rawi.”
Sharma said he was the coordinator for the Chaguanas West constituency but was shifted to Chaguanas East and while he performed in other areas in the party, things went south for him about one year after Rowley became leader.
“I noticed a change in his attitude and leadership style. I find it commendable that he brought new changes such as the one man, one vote system, but that is only on paper. He still makes decisions about everything. He imposed the aldermen on the people and the candidates in the Local Government elections. He imposed Deyalsingh on the people of St Joseph.”
(Terrence Deyalsingh won the St Joseph seat in last November’s by-election.)
But while he said he was against Rowley’s “management style”, Rowley told a public meeting at Malabar earlier this year that he became “persona non grata” in Sharma’s book after he and other party officials refused to award a lucrative information technology contract at PNM headquarters at Balisier House, Port of Spain.
Of his involvement with a group called To Preserve The Balisier (TPTB) Sharma said he and three others formed this group. He declined to name the group’s members but dismissed claims that the TPTB is a UNC initiative to destabilise the party.
“That is what Rowley and them are saying, but that’s not true,” he said.
So is this group a Club 88? A breakaway faction within the PNM?
“No, of course not,” Sharma said, adding that the TPTB upholds the constitution of the party.
Asked why Beckles’ backers and the members of the TPTB were remaining in the shadows, Sharma answered: “You have hit the nail on the head, they want to play both sides…I don’t care about that…it does not affect me one way or the other. Nobody can do me anything.”
Sharma said he admired Beckles because even though she has been twice fired by Manning- from her Arima seat and the Senate- and again fired last year by Rowley from the Upper House she kept a calm head and is now running for office.
He slammed former senator Fitzgerald Hinds for raising the opinion by some that Rowley’s complexion was too dark but acquiesced when told that Hinds was merely referring to an issue that was being touted by some senior members of the party.
Sharma said in time his candidate will be asking members of the public to make donations to her campaign.