COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—After gently glancing his fingers over a miniature statue of the Hindu goddess Parvati attached to the dashboard of his taxi, Ganesan sped past the tollbooth onto the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway connecting Bandaranaike International Airport to Colombo. “This is the work of Rajapaksa,” he muttered, referring to the multimillion-dollar, multilane highway. Partly funded by the Chinese, the road was built by former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who, after dominating the island country’s politics for a decade, was surprisingly defeated in January’s presidential election by Maithripala Sirisena.
Now, with Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections scheduled for Aug. 17, Rajapaksa is mounting a return.
“He’s a survivor,” Ganesan told me in his native Tamil. “Look how he has come back into politics.”