THE Barisan Nasional lost four states and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur in the 2008 general election but it was the loss of Selangor that was the most bitter pill for everyone in the BN camp to swallow.
That, besides the fact that the ruling coalition that has been in power since the country’s independence 60 years ago also lost for the first time its “taken for granted” two-thirds majority in Parliament.
The loss of Selangor was shocking to say the least because the then loose opposition front of Pakatan Rakyat comprising Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), PAS and the DAP did virtually nothing in terms of service to the people before the 2008 polls to capture the state.
In other words, Selangor, Malaysia’s economic and industrial hub that accounts for some 25% of the gross domestic product (GDP), was handed over to the opposition on a golden platter.
There has not been much public blame game among the BN, but leaders in the state have not taken responsibility for the loss and this continued even after the 2013 general election when the BN lost the state by an even bigger margin.
When the usually outspoken Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor opened the delegates meeting of the Petaling Jaya Utara Umno division in the heart of Selangor over the weekend, many had expected him to dwell on this issue.
And he did not disappoint the audience. Tengku Adnan pointedly blamed the then Selangor mentri besar, Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo, for the defeat.
Among other things, he attributed the loss to the demolition of a Hindu temple just a few months before the election and Khir further incurring the people’s wrath when he presented a broom each to three top bosses of local councils at a public ceremony apparently for their poor performance.
Even without the benefit of hindsight, both actions were not only plain stupid but political suicide.
Giving a broom is taken as an insult and if you insult the civil servants, it goes without saying that you are not going to get their votes as well as that of their family members.
As a journalist, it would have been a bigger news story to me then if at that broom-presentation ceremony, the three local council bosses had rejected the brooms!
I remember meeting Khir at one event just before the 2008 election and told him that he should as the mentri besar stop the demolition of the temple with the polls just around the corner because Selangor has a big Indian population.
I suggested that any temple built on land that didn’t belong to the temple authority should be relocated with the state government providing a site and not be simply demolished. But he told me that he was only following the court order.
Well, the rest is history as the BN, especially its Indian component the MIC, suffered a heavy defeat with their image battered in the state till this day. Both the then MIC president, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and his deputy Datuk G. Palanivel lost their parliamentary seats.
In a rare admission of responsibility, Khir owned up to what happened and responded to Tengku Adnan’s remarks.
“During the 2008 general election, okay (it was) my fault.
“But in the 2013 election, BN suffered a bigger defeat in Selangor. Ask Tengku Adnan why that happened. Was that my fault as well?” he told a news portal.
And in a Facebook posting later, Khir said that to date, the BN was still unable to figure out why it lost by a bigger margin, adding that “the problem with BN and Umno is that they do not have the courage to make genuine evaluations and live in denial about the people’s perception.”
With the general election expected in a few months, is the prized state of Selangor within the BN’s reach to recapture?
This of course, is one of the most dynamic issues for the voters to decide on D-Day.
Selangor being Selangor, and for that I mean its status as Malaysia’s most developed state – and many would regard it as over-developed – by and large the residents are living in comfort.
Unlike in most other states, residents in Selangor have little to complain about in terms of public facilities and utilities as it’s almost totally urbanised and easily accessible from one corner to the next.
The state government has since introduced a spate of people-friendly policies, the key of which is free water to households, the only such policy in the world that the then mentri besar, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim implemented soon after Pakatan Rakyat toppled the BN in 2008.
Never mind the fact that I have been one of the most vocal critics of this policy via this column over the years.
This is simply because I strongly believe that if you give a commodity as precious as water free, it leads to wastage.
It’s an uphill battle for the BN to wrest control of the state but with PAS out of the Pakatan Rakyat pact, the BN can capitalise on the seeming disarray in the opposition camp.
To begin with, the BN in Selangor needs a new and younger set of leaders to fight the next election.
Its chances will continue to dim if the same leaders who failed to win the state in previous elections are recycled.
Selangor has many Generation Y voters who are clamouring to see someone from among their peers to spearhead the BN challenge.
This is one critical issue the BN in Selangor has been unable to tackle.
Winning Selangor is BN’s priority so they have to walk the talk.