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Nearly five years after a humiliating defeat, the Rajapaksa clan gears up for a return.    © Reuters
The Big Story

Divide and conquer: Sri Lankan strongman plots an election return

Pro-China, populist Rajapaksa family looks to lead the debt-burdened nation

MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent | Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan

GANANGOLLA, Sri Lanka -- A palm-fringed gravel road leads into Ganangolla, a village of around 400 homes in the north-central Sri Lankan district of Polonnaruwa. Lolling buffaloes sniff at fresh shoots, and the monsoon rains have helped spread a fresh coat of shimmering green in the fields left fallow after the recent harvest. But behind the apparent idyll there is simmering discontent.

Rice prices were lower than usual at the end of the season, and most farming families have had to depend on secondary incomes, which trickle in from sales of making rice-and-curry lunch packets and sweets. Some, however, have turned to local loan sharks offering informal credit at crippling rates. "It feels like we are running in the same place for years," lamented R.M.K. Piyadasa, who has been cultivating his three-hectare plot for 40 years.

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