KKB Polls: All fishing for Indian votes in KKB


Flagging off: Party flags lining the streets as a motorcyclist rides past ahead of the Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election in Hulu Selangor. — Bernama

Community may be kingmaker in by-election

HULU SELANGOR: It was another sunny day in Pekan Kuala Kubu Baru as taxi driver S. Param leaned against his car and took a drag from his cigarette while waiting for customers as part of his daily routine.

Param is one of the about 7,200 Indian voters in the Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election who are key to whether Pakatan Harapan can hang on to the seat it won in the 2022 state elections.

This is since KKB’s Indian community, which had supported Pakatan, is undecided this time around, according to analysts.

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Param exemplified this political uncertainty.

The 55-year-old voted for Pakatan in the 2018 general election but says he is now jaded about the current government, as he claimed that there were inadequate policies to aid businesses battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Param said he was a casualty of the pandemic, as he claimed his small renovation business wound up and he was forced to drive a taxi for a living.

“Despite the reported economic recovery, it still hasn’t trickled down to small businesses and regular people yet.

“Because of that, I am unsure whether voting in the KKB by-election would make a difference. But I will wait and see what else the Pakatan candidate can offer,” he said.

In another part of KKB, businessman M. Elangovan said he has heard similar sentiments from his friends.

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“I will vote. It’s my responsibility but I can’t say the same for my friends. They are not too keen to cast their vote, and are rather fatigued by the continuous political developments,” the 42-year-old said.

Elangovan said some in the community had also expressed displeasure with the Federal Government for not appointing enough Indian ministers in the Cabinet.

“We feel that our grouses are not being heard. We want concrete measures to elevate our well-being,” he said.

However, voters like K. Sandra, expressed a different sentiment.

The 54-year-old said she and her family members are in high spirits for the by-election.

“We will come out to vote, that’s for sure. It’s our responsibility,” said the mother of four, who acknowledged that while the government was trying its best to help the community, more could be done.

“The government is not even midway through its term, and we know that uplifting the situation needs time,” she said.

Political analyst Lau Zhe Wei believes that voters like these could determine the outcome of the by-election given how divided political sentiments are within the Chinese and Malay communities.

Lau said with the parties aligned with the unity government alliance losing traction within the Malay community and some Chinese voters planning to not vote, the Indian community could be potentially decisive.

“The Malay voters are undecided and the Chinese voter turnout is a concern as well. Umno has also failed to retain solid support from Malay voters,” he said, who is an assistant professor from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

Despite having policies targeting the Indian community, the unity government has not created a strong emotional bond with them, Lau said.

“The Indian community doesn’t feel they’re reaping many benefits from the current government, which shifts the electoral dynamic,” he explained.

In previous elections, the Indian community has been a reliable voting bloc for Pakatan Harapan but that has changed in KKB.

“If Pakatan Harapan can secure the full Chinese vote alongside some Malay support, the Indian vote would just be a bonus,” he said.

But with the turnout among Chinese voters uncertain, Indian votes are crucial, Lau added.

Pakatan is facing Perikatan Nasional, Parti Rakyat Malaysia and one independent candidate in the by-election.

Realising the importance of the Indian vote, opposition coalition Perikatan has also been active in holding programmes in the community such as one being done today.

Perikatan’s KKB election director Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said he had been heartened by the interest Indian voters were showing towards the coalition, as evidenced in the turnout of Indian leaders in dialogue programmes.

“I’m happy that so many of the Indian leaders are coming to talk to us. We are actively engaging and having conversations with them,” he said.

On the Pakatan side, KKB campaign manager Wayne Ong said the turnout for a May Day luncheon recently by Hulu Selangor MIC indicated that large parts of the community are still with the ruling alliance.

The luncheon was in Kerling, a polling district labelled as a “grey zone” due to the fact it contained many undecided voters.

The fact that Pakatan managed to get a good turnout out in a grey zone was encouraging, Ong said.

“We are striving to shift from ‘grey zone’ to ‘white zone’,” said Ong, who is also Balakong state assemblyman.

“I am confident that the achievements of Pakatan’s governance are evident to all. Moving forward, we will continue to explain to the people,” he said.

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