Umno leaders were tight-lipped, their faces giving away nothing about the turbulence within the party when they emerged from the party supreme council meeting that dragged on till after midnight.
Some had expected an evening of lightning and thunderstorms, with speculation that Umno would be pulling the rug from under Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s feet.
But that did not happen.
The reason was that Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had made a stunning U-turn from his previous position to back Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for the prime minister post.
The Bagan Datuk MP together with Pekan MP Datuk Seri Najib Razak had, at a special meeting of Barisan Nasional MPs earlier the same afternoon, tried to persuade the MPs to shift their support from Muhyiddin to Anwar.
But the pair not only failed to influence the Barisan MPs, the news of their pro-Anwar stance even drew a firestorm of opposition from the party rank-and-file and the powerful division warlords who took to their Telegram chat group to voice their objection.
Ahmad Zahid quickly realised he would be facing a firing squad at the supreme council meeting if he continued with his pro-Anwar line.
Najib had already come under fire on social media. For the first time ever, his devoted Facebook followers were scolding him for wanting to work with Anwar.
It was a day of two dramatically different meetings.
“Don’t call it a U-turn, we prefer to think our president has come to his senses,” said supreme council member and Kok Lanas assemblyman Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad.
But that did not stop the supreme council members from giving their president a piece of their mind.
They told the president he had gone against the party’s stand of “No Anwar, No DAP”.
An Umno insider said several top party leaders had earlier taken their president aside to warn that Umno division heads would revolt against him if he continued to push for Anwar and that he also risked action from the supreme council.
In fact, during the meeting of Barisan MPs, Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa had offered to resign.
“If you want my post, I can resign now. You will be destroying the party and we will be punished in the general election if we accept Anwar and DAP. I may even lose in Ketereh,” said Annuar, who is also Ketereh MP.
The pro-Anwar effort was also seen as “selling out the party” and Najib’s role in it is has been perceived as going against everything that he stood for as a former party president.
Another supreme council member Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said it would be naive to believe DAP would not be involved in any cooperation with Anwar.
“PKR won big because of DAP. Don’t expect us to believe that DAP with 42 MPs would not play a role if Anwar is PM,” said the former Finance Minister.
Basically, Umno leaders find it absurd that the party is being asked to play second fiddle to Anwar.
Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said had to put on her other hat as a lawyer and an Umno leader last night to explain the constitutional basis of the Palace’s decision in rejecting the emergency move.
She said the Malay Rulers had acted within the Constitution.
Azalina also admitted being shocked that Najib was so openly trying to get Barisan MPs to work with Anwar.
“It broke my heart to hear him basically asking us to jump, to form a government with Anwar. Do you know what will happen if we do that? The party will rebel and the whole of Pengerang will burn down my house,” she told The Star after the supreme council meeting.
She also urged the party to strengthen the terms of its relationship with Bersatu.
The conclusion to be drawn from the two crucial meetings on Monday was that the move by two of the most powerful men in Umno to work with Anwar had not only failed but backfired.
Najib has denied pressuring Barisan MPs to support Anwar but rumours that he and Ahmad Zahid were colluding with Anwar had been bubbling away for weeks.
Their motive for doing so was widely speculated to be connected to the string of court cases they are facing and it has led their detractors to coin the term “kluster penjara” or prison cluster.
Alwi said the party was sympathetic to what their president and Najib were going through but the party will stand by Muhyiddin’s government for now.
“We want to respect the King’s advice to focus on taming the pandemic and to pass the Budget,” he said.
But it is learnt that Umno’s continued support for Muhyiddin comes with strings attached.
The party is not backing off on its demand for the deputy prime minister post and more important portfolios in the Cabinet.
“If they want to stay married to us, they have to respect us,” said Alwi.
The turbulence has passed in Umno but more storms lie ahead in this troubled marriage between Umno and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.