DATUK Seri Azmin Ali’s tweets expressing support and affection for Che Det, as Tun Dr Mahathir Mahathir is known as, have grown more explicit over the last couple of months.
Some in his party even think the tweets of their deputy president have crossed the “line of loyalty” where the party is concerned.
Azmin’s supporters in PKR are puzzled and confused by the tweets because very few in the party really trust or like the Prime Minister.
Most of them see Dr Mahathir as someone they have to put up with before their president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim takes over the top job.
They can see his tweets are meant to show his dissatisfaction with Anwar.
They can see that Azmin is throwing his allegiance behind Dr Mahathir and wants the 93-year-old to remain as Prime Minister for as long as possible.
Azmin had, a few days ago, tweeted support for what Dr Mahathir said on the Cameron Highlands campaign trail, that is, he will continue to serve the country till the end of his life.
It was a rather general remark by the elder man but it was widely read as an intention to continue indefinitely as the PM.
Azmin had tweeted: “PM @chedetofficial pledged to serve till his last breath for the brethren and country. Alhamdulillah continue your service Tun”.
Minutes later, came another tweet: “Thank you to the people of Malaysia for convincing me that Tun @chedetofficial is the ideal choice to lead the country”.
The succession issue is an ultra-sensitive topic and the Anwar circle viewed the tweets as aiming to thwart the plan for Anwar to take over in 2020.
“All these tweets about Che Det, surely it upsets Anwar,” said a Selangor PKR leader.
Anwar has chosen not to respond. He and Azmin go back a long way and he could see where Azmin was coming from.
Their relationship deteriorated during the contentious PKR election when Azmin had to fight off the combined forces of Istana Segambut and Rafizi Ramli to hold on to his deputy president post.
But their ties hit rock bottom over the state chairmen and supreme council appointments that Anwar made last month.
There was a showdown between the two men and Azmin left for Mecca with his wife and daughter.
There, he tweeted that he had prayed in front of the Kaabah for Dr Mahathir to have a long life so that he could continue to lead.
Since then, he has been retweeting tweets from Dr Mahathir’s Twitter handle, be it stuff about Dr Mahathir’s overseas trips, policy matters or political statements.
It has raised more than a few eyebrows and some people saw it as kerja bodek or apple-polishing the boss.
But the point is that the Economic Affairs Minister is widely seen as the PM’s blue-eyed boy.
He clearly has the trust of Dr Mahathir who has piled so much power and responsibilities on him that Azmin is now seen as the most powerful minister in the Cabinet.
A source close to Azmin said there was nothing wrong with praying for Dr Mahathir.
The source said that for 20 years, Azmin, who performs the umrah every year, had prayed for Anwar’s well-being and release from prison.
“Anwar is now a free man, there is nothing wrong to pray for someone else,” the source added.
Praying for Dr Mahathir to live a long life is one thing, but to pray for him to lead the country till the end of his life is something else.
It was as good as telling Anwar to stop dreaming of becoming the next PM.
The other problem is that Azmin has chosen to completely ignore the progress made by his own party president.
Anwar has been preparing for the big job, travelling abroad to meet foreign leaders who have given him VIP treatment befitting a PM-designate.
CNN has been running Anwar’s interview with Richard Quest over the last few days. It is a good interview and Anwar handled the prickly question of succession with grace and finesse.
But there was not a word or tweet from Azmin about the interview or for that matter, anything that Anwar has done or accomplished.
The cold war between PKR’s president and deputy president is extremely disconcerting for the rank-and-file.
A leadership rift often drives a split through the party and it holds the party back from moving forward.
Pakatan Harapan circles suspect that the problems between Anwar and Azmin may also have to do with Azmin’s own ambitions in the government.
There has been speculation that Dr Mahathir is eyeing Azmin as the deputy prime minister when Anwar takes over.
Old habits are hard to change and Dr Mahathir does have a habit of choosing his successor and determining the deputy to the successor.
The trouble is that it has twice turned out to a poisoned chalice because if the successors do not do as he says, he will do what it takes to bring them down.
Azmin has been a relatively low-profile minister despite his immense portfolio, but those tweets have made headlines and kept him in the news.
He is likely to keep tweeting about Che Det no matter what his party people think or say about it.