Hulu Selangor vigorous campaigns
By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal and Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani
KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 — Barisan Nasional (BN) appears on track to retake the Hulu Selangor constituency, with leaders from the incumbent Pakatan Rakyat (PR) conceding it was an arduous task to retain the seat in the face of high approval ratings for Datuk Seri Najib Razak and a confident Umno.
The April 25 by-election is expected to see a straight fight between BN’s MIC candidate and PR’s PKR candidate. Both rivals have yet to announce their candidates ahead of the April 17 nomination day.
“It is an uphill battle for Pakatan Rakyat in Hulu Selangor. Najib is throwing every resource, skill, and trick to win the votes,” DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang told The Malaysian Insider
One of the reasons for PR’s tough challenge is the fact that Hulu Selangor is a BN bastion. In Election 2008, the PR candidate won by a mere 198 votes. All three state seats in the constituency went to BN.
Crucially, there were more than 1,000 spoilt votes, suggesting a major protest by voters — who are likely BN supporters — against the then-incumbent candidate, Datuk G. Palanivel from MIC.
But with the odds of Palanivel being chosen as the BN candidate shrinking by the day, another revolt by BN supporters, particularly those from Umno, looks unlikely.
“It is BN’s to lose but we cannot sit idly by and take for granted that we have now amassed support.
“We have a huge challenge because PR will also go all out to win the seat and use their strength as state government to defend the place,” Lenggong MP Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah told The Malaysian Insider.
The Umno MP also pointed towards a recent poll by the independent Merdeka Center, which he said showed voter confidence in the prime minister.
The Merdeka Center poll showed that 74 per cent of Malays polled were satisfied with Najib’s performance, while 77 per cent of Indians fell into the same category, indicating perhaps that the minority community has been won over by the PM’s symbolic gestures, including visiting Batu Caves during Thaipusam and his pledge to uplift the economic status of the Indian community.
BN’s defeat in Hulu Selangor in 2008, as well as in many other seats where they lost by small margins, was helped by the defection of Indian voters to the opposition.
If the national trend is repeated in Hulu Selangor, this will mean most Indian votes will return to BN.
With Indians accounting for 19.3 per cent of the 64,500 voters in Hulu Selangor, a swing towards BN could almost guarantee victory.
Malays make up the bulk of voters, 52.7 per cent of the electorate, and their votes were evenly split in Election 2008 between PKR and BN.
Most observers expect the majority of the Chinese votes, which make up 26.3 per cent of the total, to go to PR.
But PR leaders are continuing to give the Hulu Selangor campaign everything it has at its disposal.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is leading the campaign and has so far announced that the state government would be awarding land titles “soon” to some 100,000 villagers who had been squatting on government land for at least 15 years.
“I think we have to still campaign rigorously and to explain to the people of Hulu Selangor that it is important that we should maintain a very successful opposition group in Parliament.
“And at the same time, the state is endeavouring to provide the best service to the people of Selangor,” Khalid told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
Despite a refusal by both PR and BN leaders to acknowledge it, the Hulu Selangor by-election will be seen as a barometer of how the country — particularly in peninsular Malaysia — will vote in the next general election.
A win for PR will boost flagging spirits within the opposition coalition, which has been hit by a series of defections.
If BN takes the seat, it will not only be symbolic — to retake a seat it lost to PR in Election 2008 — but will also be a major boost for Najib, who has so far quelled rumblings of dissent among Umno warlords over the choice of BN’s candidate.
BATANG KALI: Two Indian NGOs have come out in support of G Palanivel who is on shaky ground as the prospective BN candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election.
Batang Kali Hindu Youth Organisation (HYO) said Palanivel had been an asset to the Hulu Selangor community “even when not in power”.
M Saravanan, a council member, said Palanivel was the most suitable candidate for the seat because he was familiar with issues affecting the people in the area.
“He has been servicing the area well despite lack of ministerial backup. He has a good track record and we feel he is most suited to represent Hulu Selangor,” he said.
Speculation is rife that BN chairman Najib Tun Razak may heed Umno grassroots call to drop the MIC deputy president, to be replaced by a younger MIC man.
Palanivel held the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat for three terms from 1990 to 2008. In the 2008 general election, he narrowly lost to PKR’s Zainal Abidin Ahmad by 198 votes.
Perkesomas, another Indian NGO, claimed Palanivel’s popularity among the Indian community was now at 75 percent.
Its spokesperson, R Rajan attributed Palanivel’s popularity in Hulu Selangor to his service record and his support of local NGOs.
“The situation is different now compared to 2008. People are not as angry with MIC as they were then. Palanivel has been committed to his constituency and his support has improved to 75 percent,” Rajan said.
Open warfare with Umno
The Hulu Selangor seat has traditionally been an MIC stronghold, but the March 2008 political tsunami wiped out MIC’s presence in all but three of its parliamentary seats.
The Hulu Selangor seat came vacant following the death of Zainal on March 25.
MIC president S Samy Velu then announced that the party had forwarded Palanivel’s name to the BN supreme council. This triggered an open warfare with Hulu Selangor Umno who wanted Palanivel dropped and the parliamentary seat returned to Umno.
They also proposed that BN field former Selangor Menteri Besar Muhammad Muhd Taib for the seat but Najib put paid to this when he said that an MIC candidate would be picked.
However, the saga continues. The tussle is now between Palanivel and Umno-savvy Hulu Selangor MIC division Youth chief V Mugilan.
Najib will announce BN’s choice for the Hulu Selangor by-election on April 15.