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Has Mudavadi found fresh fire power or fighting survival battle?

ANC Party leader Musalia Mudavadi addresses residents of Amalemba in Kakamega town during a past Kenya Kwanza rally. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

In his political career spanning more than three decades, he has always potrayed himself as a man who chooses his words carefully.

Confrontational politics has hardly been his style. This has earned ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi praise and rebuke in equal measure.

Now, however, the man from Mululu seems to have changed especially after quitting the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) to join Deputy President William Ruto.

In the last few weeks, Mudavadi has been throwing heavy punches at his rivals trying to mock his decision to work with Ruto in the Kenya Kwanza alliance. Just like the adage “When you are in Rome, do as Romans do”, the former vice president and deputy prime minister is acquiring the aggression of Ruto and his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) allies.

Even the departure of many ANC legislators to join parties affiliated to the Azimio la Umoja has not deflected his newfound spirit.

Tumechoka (We are tired)! Tumechoka (We are tired)!” shouted Mudavadi in an attack on ODM leader Raila Odinga during one of the rallies in Western region last week.

In their campaign trail, Mudavadi has taken on Raila, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Central Organisation of Trade Unions General-Secretary Francis Atwoli.

Political oblivion

While his supporters are cheering him on, critics claim he has lost his brand and could be headed for political oblivion. They believe the change is a mockery of a politician who has failed to be his own man, and is now clutching at Ruto’s coat for survival.

Some political commentators argue that a number of factors are shaping his political career.

Some critics and analysts believe that he is under pressure to show Kenya Kwanza allies that he is a worthy partner, that he must now be aggressive to earn more bargaining power with the DP and his allies.

Lawyer and political pundit Joshua Nyamori says the ANC leader is rebranding himself to pull larger crowds and build his support.

He claims Mudavadi has learnt that the country’s politics thrives on aggression, and that he had lost support in Western because of the type of politics he had adopted.

“Mudavadi now understands the role aggression plays in attracting supporters and he is probably thinking by adopting the strategy he will be able to attract more followers,” he says.

But at the same time, it appears that his Western Kenya base is slipping away, if the number of legislators who have left his party to join Democratic Action Party - Kenya (DAP-K) is anything to go by.

Yesterday, Khwisero MP Christopher Aseka left ANC for Raila’s ODM in an evet also attended by Lugari MP Ayub Savula and Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi.

Savula, who was Mudavadi’s deputy in ANC, is the DAP-K party leader, while Osotsi defected to ODM.

Defense Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa says it was very uncharacteristic of Mudavadi to be an attack dog.

“He’s been the gentleman of the Kenyan politics. I’m disappointed with what he said. I don’t know what he ate that day. We thought he is taking us to the State House, but now he is taking us to wheelbarrow and we won’t fall for that,” he says.

Savula alleges that Mudavadi has been paid to get into a coalition with Ruto to facilitate the “auction of the Luyha votes.”

“Mudavadi has started Ruto’s habits. He has never thrown words at people, but we have witnessed him throwing words at the President,” he says.

But some ANC allies believe that past disappointment from Uhuru and Raila as well as ridicule by leaders from Western Kenya has angered him.

A senior member of ANC who asked not to be named claims their party leader had endured several betrayals, including in 2013 when he thought President Kenyatta would back him for the top seat.

Back then, Mudavadi’s quest to replace former President Mwai Kibaki had gained support.

But that changed when Uhuru and Ruto came together and went ahead to win the 2013 contest.

“The President and Raila were not offering him anything formidable that is why he has to be his own man and chat his path with Ruto,” says the ANC leader.

Gentle and rough

ANC chairman Kelvin Lunani claims Mudavadi is responding to disrespect been shown by some politicians.

“He has been in politics for a very long time and understands the things happening in this country. If you are gentle to him, he will be gentle to you and if you are rough, he will also be rough,” says Lunani.

According to Lunani, the ANC boss is also keen to prove that the fight for a better Kenya.

“Musalia respected Raila but the brother never reciprocated,” he says.

Adongo Ogony, a human rights activist, argues that the alliance might not last to the General Election. “It it becomes obvious that Ruto is losing the presidential race, Mudavadi may jump out of that sinking ship.”

Ruto, Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula formed Kenya Kwanza during the ANC National Delegates Conference.