THERE is a need for a strong Pakatan Harapan leader to break PAS’ hold on Kelantan, said the grassroots, who see Mustapa Mohamed as the best man for the job.
They told The Malaysian Insight that the Jeli MP, affectionately known as Tok Pa, has what it takes for PH to win over Kelantan folk, who have returned the Islamist party to power in the state since 1990.
“We feel Tok Pa is the most qualified leader among the state PH leaders to guide the pact in Kelantan. He is the only one with experience, and is currently elected to both Parliament and the state legislature,” said an Amanah division leader in Kota Baru.
Mustapa, a former Umno leader and Barisan Nasional-era cabinet member, joined Bersatu last year. He is also Air Lanas assemblyman.
Kelantan PH is said to have hit a brick wall in it its efforts to unseat PAS, as evidenced by its inability to take a single seat in the state in the last general election.
In the 2018 elections, PAS took 37 of Kelantan’s 45 state seats, and Umno-BN took the rest. The Islamists won nine Kelantan parliamentary seats, and Umno took the remaining five.
After Mustapa’s defection, Umno’s Tanah Merah MP, Hisham Abdul Aziz, also joined Bersatu.
At the moment, PH in Kelantan is helmed by Senator Radzi Jidin, who is deputy economic affairs minister.
Putrajaya has also made Economics Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali chairman of the Kelantan Action Council (KAC), which oversees federal government projects in the state.
There are calls for Mustapa to be absorbed into the cabinet due to his wide experience, but earlier this month, Azmin named him chairman of Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera (Teraju), a federal agency in charge of encouraging Bumiputera participation in the economy.
Kelantan leaders have also called for Mustapa to play a bigger role in the state, saying the Azmin-led KAC has not made a big impact.
“Many see Azmin as an outsider, and his focus is not on Kelantan,” said a senior state Bersatu leader, who also declined to be named.
“We also don’t see the impact of the council that he heads. The development progress is too slow.”
Last March, Azmin announced that Putrajaya would prioritise the completion of five key projects in the state, and that KAC would oversee these projects.
They are the East Coast Expressway Phase 3, Sultan Ismail Petra Airport expansion and upgrading, new Pasir Puteh-Machang-Jeli route, Kota Baru-Kuala Krai expressway and Palekbang-Kota Baru bridge.
Kelantan folk said these projects are not new, as they were approved by the previous BN government.
“All these weaken the state PH, and continue to strengthen PAS and Umno,” said the senior Bersatu leader.
“The people here do not feel there is a need for them to move away from supporting PAS.
“This can change if Tok Pa is given a much bigger role in Kelantan.”
Not everyone in the state – even those from PH – think Mustapa is the one who can help the pact make inroads in Kelantan, however.
There is apparently some animosity between his supporters and Bersatu’s early movers in Kelantan.
“For this group, Tok Pa is a defector from Umno and should not be given big posts in Bersatu or PH, especially when they have worked so hard to get Bersatu moving in Kelantan in the early days,” said a leader.
“So, we understand their sentiments despite the wishes of the PH grassroots for Tok Pa’s bigger involvement.”
State Bersatu youth chief Asran Alias said the party should bring up newer, younger leaders instead of relying on old-timers.
THE MLAYSIAN INSIGHT