After a week-long political tug-of-war over who should contest in Hulu Selangor, there was real relief when the Barisan Nasional finally confirmed P. Kamalanathan as the candidate.
THERE has been such an incredible level of politicking over the Barisan Nasional’s choice of candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election.
As such, there was real relief among those gathered at the coalition’s operations centre when the lanky MIC information chief P. Kamalanathan was confirmed as the candidate.
Kamalanathan was the name that Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu finally agreed upon early yesterday morning.
Or as Muhyiddin and Samy Vellu both said in jest, the agreement came after a night of fitful sleep during which they claimed they kept seeing each other whenever they opened their eyes.
It must have been quite a nightmarish night given their conflicting views on who ought to be the Hulu Selangor candidate for the last one week.
But by the time the Barisan top guns arrived in Hulu Selangor to endorse the candidate, feelings had cooled down a little and everyone was wearing big smiles.
It is no secret that Samy Vellu was extremely disappointed that his deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel did not make it as the candidate.
And even though everyone was melting in the heat under the giant white tent, Samy Vellu held on to his composure and his elaborate hairdo.
Muhyiddin spent a considerable part of his speech acknowledging the MIC leader and even hailed him as the “great Samy Vellu”.
“But people want a fresh breeze. Everywhere we went in Hulu Selangor, they told us that they wanted a new person,” said Muhyiddin.
The deputy Prime Minister also took a few digs at the PKR candidate Datuk Zaid Ibrahim who used to be his Cabinet colleague.
“Beh Sai!” cannot he said in Hokkien when telling the audience that they could not let Zaid take the seat.
The crowd shouted, “Pelompat!” and other unsavoury terms relating to his allegedly liberal lifestyle.
Looking at the cordial faces and listening to the positive speeches that afternoon, one would not have suspected that this has been one of the messiest candidate selection in recent Barisan history.
There were appeals and demands, threats of a boycott and even talk that the MIC would pull out of the Barisan if Palanivel was not chosen.
At times, it seemed even more dramatic than the movies on the Thangathirai channel on Astro. Some called the whole episode a dramedy, that is, a drama-comedy.
There was certainly a lot of drama but it was hardly funny, as far as Barisan leaders were concerned.
Had Palanivel been picked, this would be his sixth time contesting the seat. Anyone born when he became Hulu Selangor MP in 1990 would now be old enough to vote.
It was truly time to make way especially given the fact that he lost by 198 votes in the parliamentary seat whereas Barisan won by a combined total of 6,000 plus votes in the three state seats.
But neither he nor those pushing for his candidature seemed to see that and it caused a crisis for his coalition.
Rejected and dejected, Palanivel did not bother to turn up to support Kamalanathan.
The selection of Kamalanathan, 44, does reflect the generational change taking place in so many political parties today.
The PR consultant is a local boy and as Muhyiddin stressed: “We have checked him out, he has no baggage.”
Kamalanathan is what everyone is calling the “compromise candidate,” someone acceptable to those who will be campaigning on the ground.
But he will not only have to contend with taking on his Pakatan Rakyat opponent Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, he will also have to grapple with the ill-will caused by the political tug-of-war preceding his candidature.
Samy Vellu is unlikely to allow the MIC to lose a second time to PKR but a big question mark remains over whether the MIC machinery will be in full swing behind Kamalanathan.
There is bound to be some degree of bitterness among supporters of his predecessor and they may not come out and campaign for him or may even sabotage him.
But he will have the full support of Umno. It was the Malay ground that did not want Palanivel and now that a new face has been picked, Umno should be committed to him.
Still, Kamalanathan has one of those truly Malaysian names. His full name is a bit of a mouthful but his friends call him Kamal and his Indian friends call him Nathan.
That should set him off on a good start among the voters of Hulu Selangor.