“He says one thing and does the opposite. It is our duty to remind him to be true to the deal he made with our party leader. Take the issue of the expulsion of (Malindi MP) Aisha Jumwa. It is blatant hypocrisy.

Secondly, his lieutenants are openly attacking the DP, including those who have recently been given government jobs as directors, courtesy of this deal. Just what is the handshake for?” poses the vocal legislator.

During Tuesday’s live interview on a local TV station, the DP similarly pointed out the handshake was being used as a political tool aimed at frustrating his presidential bid. And he singled out the Orange party’s deputy leader, Hassan Joho, who has reportedly confessed that he has express instructions from Mr Odinga to stop a Ruto presidency. The DP also cited Mr Orengo, for plotting to impeach him.

“This whole thing is about a plot to stop one man from vying for presidency,” reacted Mr Ruto, to which former Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe curiously concurs. Mr Murathe concedes the handshake “is truly political”, aimed at ensuring inclusivity in politics and governance.

“Some people now think that the presidency in this country is an affair of two communities, that it shall continue exchanging hands between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu. This has to change,” says Mr Murathe.

In a pointer to a thickening plot against the DP, Mr Murathe told a TV station on Wednesday that a political formation was in the making coalescing around opposition politicians and the President: “Raila is just the face of that outfit, and I guess that is why he is a target of attack by Ruto’s supporters.”

In confronting the impediment at hand, the DP has been very smart and cautious — isolating Mr Odinga for battle and avoiding direct confrontation with the President. This is because the President controls the vote bloc that will most likely determine the next President after him, says Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.

“Before the handshake, Ruto was Uhuru’s chief political ally, and therefore guaranteed support by this bloc. But the handshake changed these dynamics. It made Raila an Uhuru ally as well. It also introduced a certain level of uncertainly about what Uhuru thinks of Ruto,” explains Mr Wambugu.

Ideally, the handshake has brought Mr Odinga back into the political equation just when Mr Ruto thought the opposition leader was politically finished after the last elections and his subsequent illegitimate swearing-in as the “people’s president”. Evidently, the former PM could complicate Mr Ruto’s bid, whether he runs or not.

“Clearly, the longer the handshake lasts, the weaker Ruto becomes politically, and the stronger Raila becomes. The DP must therefore do everything he can to undermine the handshake for his own political survival. In there, however, lies Ruto’s biggest dilemma because the handshake [was initiated by] his boss — President Kenyatta,” says Wambugu.

Nonetheless, Pokot South MP David Pkosing says Team Ruto is “raring to go and ready for all eventualities”. The DP, the lawmaker says, has over the time emerged as the most popular candidate and his backers will not allow anyone to suppress his chances.

“Try and reflect on the applause he received, for instance, when he entered Parliament during the State of the Nation address. You will appreciate that Ruto enjoys the support of a majority of legislators and the same is phenomenal across the countryside.”

Fashioning their campaigns as “hustler nation” and “hustler influence”, backers of Ruto have in essence hit the campaign trail. In congratulating winners of Ugenya and Embakasi by-elections, the DP stated the hustler nation has spoken”, as National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale mocked ODM for pulling out of the Wajir-West contest because “the hustler influence is real”.

PACT

During the Tuesday interview, the DP claimed Mr Odinga had approached him four times asking to team up with him in government, an overture which Ruto declined “because I do not trust him”.

Nonetheless, the fact that the President proceeded to form a pact with Mr Odinga, despite the alleged warning from Ruto, implies that Mr Kenyatta — and not Mr Odinga — is the man behind the current political manoeuvres.

The DP and his handlers are doubtlessly aware of this reality and are only goading at Mr Odinga to send a coded message to the President. When and how Team Ruto eventually opts to confront the President directly is what will determine the intensity and fierceness of the 2022 succession battle.

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