Losing the battle for Selangor: Najib antagonizes state Umno leaders

Losing the battle for Selangor: Najib antagonizes state Umno leaders

When the US claimed victory in Afghanistan ten years ago, the only strategic area that the US had control over was Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan was still in the hands of the Taliban. Yet this is all that is required for any regime to declare itself the victor. Conquer the capital and the most populated area that caters for all activities - from the social to the economic and the political.
We all know that UMNO is in deep trouble due to broad-based and deep-seated infighting. Yet, Selangor UMNO without a proper full-time chief of its own still wants to recapture the state from a very popular Pakatan Rakyat administration led by PKR Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim.
In fact, ambitious UMNO has set its sights on winning back not just Selangor but also Kuala Lumpur, so as to enhance its credibility in ruling the country as both are of the same strategic importance as Kabul was to the US in Afghanistan.
Richest state
Selangor is the richest state in terms of the Gross Domestic Product per capita at over RM90,000 and the most populous state in Malaysia with over 5.5 million people. The state's ethnic composition consists of Malay 52.9%, Chinese 27.8%, Indian 13.3%, and other ethnic groups 6%. Prime Minister Najib Razak, who appointed himself the interim Selangor UMNO chief, is hoping that the Malays will return to support his party, thereby reducing the impact of the non-Malay vote which is expected to go to the Pakatan Rakyat as had happened in 2008.
Selangor is hailed as the gateway to Malaysia because of its strategic location and accessibility to all major business and travel routes. It is home to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), the country's main entry point, and Port Klang, the largest port in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, and Putrajaya, the federal administrative capital, lie within the boundaries of the state, further enhancing the strategic importance of Selangor. Selangor is also the venue of world-class sporting events such as the Formula One Grand Prix and F1 Powerboat World Championship.
Selangor also boasts flourishing urban centres, such as Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Sunway and the royal town of Klang. These abound with modern facilities including healthcare institutions, 4 public universities and 21 private university colleges, huge shopping malls, sprawling industrial estates and recreational centres.
Najib must win Selangor
Other states are not as crucial to Najib as Selangor. Not only is winning Selangor important for his own image and going down in UMNO history as the president who reclaimed the state from the opposition, but without Selangor, the already fast-draining UMNO coffers will run dry.
Because it is such a bustling and strategic state, most of the Foreign Direct Investment and big deals involve Selangor. For the UMNO gravy train to continue chugging along, the engine must run through Selangor to pick up the good deals to be shared down the line by the UMNO warlords. Not only does Najib have to contend with a shrinking UMNO bank account, his chieftains in the state will turn against him for failing to deliver the goods to them.
Najib is also convinced that those states under UMNO-BN rule can now be easily defended with the usual cheating and vote buying. Only left is Selangor, which is different. The strategy used must thus be appropriate.
Najib's most dramatic effort in Selangor of late is to force onto the already-bickering UMNO leaders there to accept anybody chosen by himself and former premier Mahathir Mohamad to lead the state. Even if that individual is not a son of the state or a prominent leader at all. This course of action was 'decided' on at a three-day retreat in September 2011.
Yes, Mahathir and Najib - who also have 'territory' to divide among themselves - have decided that they must cooperate and compromise to win Selangor. This means that both Noh Omar, the current Agriculture Minister and Mohd Zin, the Selangor UMNO secretary, can say good bye to their ambitions to be Mentri Besar or Chief Minister. They might as well stop their bickering and feuding, but sad to say, they are not.
This is because without a proper and full-time state leader, there is no one to keep them in check - no one to make them toe the line. Najib simply doesn't have enough time for Selangor, he doesn't even have time for Malaysia. As far as possible, he would prefer to travel from one expensive official overseas visit to another, where he can walk on plushly-carpeted floors, dress in RM20,000 suits and spout grandiose visions that make everyone back home laugh and criticize him for the hypocrite that he has become.
Still using the old and crooked ways
But deaf to criticism, Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin have been campaigning in the traditional UMNO style of promising the moon and the stars, while offering 'bribes' and 'goodies' to the people if they elected BN in the next general election. "You scratch my back, I scratch yours" or "instant noodles" politics as Najib himself describes it!
During the recent “Sepetang Bersama Perdana Menteri “ or An Evening with the Prime Minister at the Rimba Jaya flats, Najib gave an assurance that the people's many problems under the Pakatan Rakyat government would be resolved if BN took over the state administration. How and when he did not detail, nor did he tackle the underlying root of Selangor's woes - 50 years of UMNO rule before Pakatan took over in 2008!
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yasin has also been busy in Selangor - 'buying' votes. At a function in Klang, Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, announced a RM29mil allocation for the building of a new school. He also presented aid totalling RM6.68 million to 34 religious schools in Selangor. Earlier, he presented aid amounting to RM200,000 to the Kampung Budiman mosque here.
These are the usual UMNO tactics to gain votes and the people are already well-versed with the sweet talk, which is usually not followed up with any action at all. It is amazing that both Najib and his deputy are so out of sync with the present.
These days, in changing Selangor, even UMNO contractors are reluctant to attach a copy of their UMNO membership certificate when submitting their tenders in Selangor which they used to do previously, so as to get preferential treatment. But now merit and competition counts for more in transparency-conscious Selangor. It is still a bumpy road but slowly and surely, an 'independent' culture is seeping into Selangor society and its business people.
Unable to destabilize Selangor Pakatan
At the same time, UMNO is hoping that the Pakatan government will be weak. UMNO has already tried many ways to weaken it since losing the state in 2008. In the aftermath of the 2008 polls, UMNO even tried to use PAS leaders Hassan Ali and Nasharuddin Mat Isa to form an UMNO-PAS coalition that would sideline PKR and DAP. As we all know now - UMNO failed.
The Malay nationalist party stubbornly continued to hit under the belt in the hope that it could pierce through the Pakatan armour. The slew of gutter politics it used even resulted in the death of a Selangor political aide, Teoh Beng Hock.
They tried to discredit exco Elizabeth Wong and Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, accusing him of abusing state money to buy cows for sacrificial slaughter and for operating his personal car under state expense.
They even dragged a cow's head through the streets of Shah Alam in a bid to rally the Malays against the Hindus and thereby blame the Pakatan government, which had approved the siting of a temple nearby to a Malay area.
They also accused Khalid of inefficient water management, while all the time protecting and trying to feed new deals to UMNO leader Rozali Ismail's SYABAS water concession.
The list goes on. There are just too many nonsensical attempts. None have worked. Even the latest attempt to use Hasan Ali to backstab his PAS party and the Pakatan backfired. Hasan was promptly sacked and is now proving to be a headache for UMNO with his wild talk such as Pakatan aiming to form a merger with Singapore and turning the combine into a republic.
But the single most important thing that it should have done, Selangor UMNO has failed to do - which is to appoint a proper leader. Talk about bungling and shooting itself in the foot.
The truth of the matter is that UMNO actually has no one capable of being the leader especially for a state like Selangor. No one has the qualities needed. None of the UMNO leaders now are winnable.
Khir was Dr M's blunder: Will Ezam or Tyson be Najib's
Mahathir made the blunder of appointing Khir Toyo the Mentri Besar, replacing Abu Hasan in the 90s, but Khir was accused of so much corruption that he has been singled out as one of the main reasons why Selangorians dumped BN in 2008. Like it or not, Mahathir has learned his lesson. He won't be in such a hurry to listen to his “intelligent” son Mukhriz anymore as Mukhriz was the one who talked him into appointing Khir as the Selangor chief.
UMNO now knows it must vet through thoroughly before appointing the next Selangor leader. Will it be Ezam Mohd Nor, the PKR turncoat who joined UMNO in 2008, or will UMNO decide to recycle former Selangor strongman - Muhammad Muhammad Taib? Yes, this is still the latest talk on the Selangor UMNO grapevine.
Neither Ezam or Muhammad Taib aka Tyson are exactly prime material. In fact, both are controversial and carry a negative image. Few Selangorians would dare to imagine their state could ever be free of corruption if either man came to power.
But decide one way or other, Najib has to. It is very critical for Najib if he wants to win back Selangor. If he makes the wrong choice, then he will be left with only one last 'safety net'. Outright cheating at the ballot boxes, with citizenship-for-votes foreign workers swamping the polling stations and helped by the tremendous increase in RELA personnel allocated to 'watch' the state during voting day.
Malaysia Chronicle

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