Bagan Pinang returning feudal politics & politician
After a string of by-election defeats, Barisan Nasional has finally tasted the sweetness of victory in Bagan Pinang tonight. And it was no ordinary win.
The coalition had retained the state seat with a huge majority, winning in all the eight polling districts and more importantly, witnessing an increase in support from the non-Malays.
According to MIC sources, out of the 1,870 Indians who voted, BN got a whopping 1,387 votes while PAS only managed 483.
MIC president S Samy Vellu, who had hit the campaign trail with a vengeance in order to prove a point, later claimed credit for the reversal.
“We (MIC) have kept our promise to the prime minister by delivering the Indian votes to BN.
“This was his (Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak) KPI (key performance index) to MIC,” he said in a statement.
MIC vice-president S Subramaniam added that this was an indication that the Indians were returning to the BN fold.
With Bagan Pinang, the by-election contest tally now stands at 7-2, with Pakatan Rakyat previously sweeping all but Sarawak’s Batang Ai.
The latest victory could not have come at a better time and would definitely provide the defeat-weary BN and its chief with a much-needed boost.
Until now, it had appeared that the ruling coalition could not do anything right and pundits were already toying with the possibility of a change of government in the next general election.
With infighting and credibility issues plaguing its component parties, BN’s future seemed bleak and morale had sunk to new depths.
So rest assured that while the unfavourable outcome of previous by-elections received minimal media coverage, this result would surely make headlines to underscore BN’s return from a state of political comatose.
Isa bigger than Umno
However once the initial euphoria subsides, the ruling coalition must look into the root causes or in this case the ‘root cause’ for the resounding victory because unlike previous by-elections, Bagan Pinang is unique.
Therefore it might not be the simple case of voters, especially the non-Malays, having embraced BN again.
Because the Umno/BN candidate Isa Samad walks taller than his party, at least in the state of Negeri Sembilan.
Despite being suspended for money politics five years ago, the controversy had done little to damage the politician’s reputation among the people of his state.
After all, Isa was menteri besar for 22 years and it is common knowledge that the Tamil-speaking Umno leader is well liked by all races.
Even Umno’s top brass had to bow to this as reports suggested that fielding any other candidate could have proved disastrous.
Although coming under intense criticism for allowing a disbarred lawyer to contest in August’s Permatang Pasir by-election, Umno had little choice but to name another ‘tainted’ candidate this time around.
Umno’s grand masters Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had also protested against Isa’s candidacy but even their voices drowned under the pressure from the grassroots who wanted the former MB and no one else.
Some of his hardcore supporters were of the opinion that Isa, a former Umno vice-president, would have won the seat even if he had stood as an independent.
“He may look small in size but he is bigger than Umno, MIC and MCA. He doesn’t need them to campaign for him. He would have got the votes of all the three races on his own,” said one jubilant supporter.
With this possibility looming, Umno found itself trapped in a ‘Catch 22’ situation.
So it decided that it would rather win with a politician whom it had condemned as corrupt rather than risk making the ‘morally correct’ decision and suffer another humiliation.
Voted for the man, not the party
Even Chinese voters – who had cast their ballots for PAS in the last general election after seeing red with Umno over the keris issue – could not resist the Isa charm.
And most of them admitted that they had voted for the man and not for his party.
According to them, the issue was simple. Isa had been very supportive of the local Chinese community during his tenure as menteri besar.
However, the opposition had a different take.
They claimed that the odds were stacked against them right from the start as the playing field in Bagan Pinang was never level given the fact that there are more than 4,000 postal votes which make up one third of the total votes.
Allegations and criticisms aside, it would be hard for any party or individual apart from Isa to claim credit for this landslide triumph.