Winning back their ‘nambikai’


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 29 Oct 2011

What matters now to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak are the Indian voters who had sided with Pakatan Rakyat

out of anger for Barisan Nasional. It is their trust, confidence or hope' that he seeks at the next general election.

NAMBIKAI. It's a frequently-used Tamil word by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during his Deepavali rounds.

Variedly translated as “trust, confidence or hope” the word, as used by him, refers to the high level of confidence the Indian community had in the MIC, Barisan Nasional and Najib's predecessors prior to the 2008 political tsunami.

He wants the community to return to that level, saying that the Government was doing much to help the Indians overcome their issues by providing them with government jobs, blue identity cards, birth certificates and, above all, attention from the Government.

Soon after he flew home from Saudi Arabia, where he had attended a royal funeral, Najib criss-crossed the capital to attend Deepavali open houses. He then left for Perth to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Nambikai featured prominently in his messages, suggesting he wants the community to believe in what he is doing and to have confidence in the Government, especially in what it can do for them.

Before 2008, nearly 80% of the Indians in the country had backed the ruling party and their votes were considered a “fixed deposit”.

Right up to the Ijok by-election in Selangor in April 2007, the Indian voters still believed in the Government although, by that time, the urban Chinese votes had already swung to Pakatan Rakyat.

It all changed with the Hindraf protest seven months after the Ijok polls.

The Indians gathered in their thousands in the capital and protested against marginalisation, discrimination and loss of jobs.

They lost their nambikai in the Government. In its place was disenchantment, disillusionment and disbelief in anything that the Government did or said.

The MIC and especially then president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu came under heavy shelling.

Barisan was punished over policies that allegedly included breaking temples, demolishing squatter homes and denying jobs even low-skilled jobs for Indians in the Government.

Pakatan gained tremendously from the Indian revolt but since Najib took over as Prime Minister, they have begun to lose out to Barisan's charm, campaign and the transformation plans.

The Indians who voted for the Barisan in 2008 remain hardcore supporters of the coalition.

What matters now are the rest of the voters, who had sided with Pakatan Rakyat out of anger at Barisan.

It is their nambikai that Najib seeks as the drum beats of a coming general election grow louder.

On his campaign trail in the 2008 polls, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wore dark glasses and self-styled himself as Sivaji, after a character in a Tamil movie. He was a hit.

But after winning the Indian voters, almost by default because they were angry with the Barisan, Anwar has virtually forgotten them.

Najib, on the other hand, is working hard to earn the community's trust.

He set up a special implementation task force and proceeded to redress some of the most glaring wrongs that the Indian underclass had suffered from.

Gradually, he worked his way through meetings with various ethnic groups living under the “Indian community” label, i.e. the Sikhs, Telegus, Jaffa Tamils, Malayalees and the Tamils.

He met and embraced their leaders and offered vital financial help to their organisations.

For example, the Sri Murugan Centre, which helps poor Indian children in education, got an injection of funds. Likewise, the Temple of Fine Arts.

Four years after 2008, the winds of change have begun to blow in the community and the Indians are warming once again to Barisan and the MIC, as believed by the party.

More than just his policies to repair damages, Najib has gone to the ground to mingle with the ordinary people.

The challenge is to translate his popularity into votes for Barisan.

How Najib will do it is yet to be seen but for now, he is asking the Indians to have nambikai in the Government, and they are beginning to respond.

Losing nambikai is easy but winning it back is hard, as Najib knows.

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