DAP’s Lim Kit Siang has always been difficult to read and he has been super coy about where he will be contesting in the general election.
Speculation that he will contest in Penang has resurfaced and banners mocking his penchant for seat-hopping went up in George Town near where DAP was holding a ceramah.
The Penang City Council had to be called in to tear down the banners which showed him in a Kermit the Frog outfit with the message: “Don’t be a frog, return to Gelang Patah”.
The rumour about him returning to Penang intensified when a Chinese vernacular newspaper reported that Tanjung, his former parliamentary seat in Penang, has been left vacant for a “party heavyweight”.
But a party insider said Lim cannot leave Johor or else Pakatan Harapan’s campaign to capture the southern state will be in disarray.
“He opened the door there in 2013. If he leaves, then the battle is over,” said the insider.
So will it be Tanjung or Gelang Patah (now known as Iskandar Puteri) for DAP’s most powerful figure? The answer is none of the above.
Apparently, Lim is still set on going to Johor Baru. It will be the riskiest move of his political life but he feels he needs to revive the DAP’s do-or-die battle cry and boost his party’s morale in Johor.
His party’s grand design to wipe out MCA in Johor and pump up a political momentum has stumbled following the refusal of big names to move to challenging seats in the state.
For instance, Liew Chin Tong, who is Johor DAP chairman, is not very much nearer to his goal of replacing MCA’s Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong as the MP for Ayer Hitam.
Liew stirred quite a bit of excitement when he decided to go to the Malay-majority seat, the Chinese support for him is there but the momentum is missing.
It is also apparent by now that Amanah and Parti Pribumi is unable to move the Malay ground for Liew and his party.
Lim defeated former mentri besar Tan Sri Ghani Othman in 2013 and he now aims to take down Tan Sri Shahrir Samad who has been Johor Baru MP for a total of six terms.
Lim is aiming to make the Chinese rise up and defend him against Shahrir and Umno. He will probably go on the line that Shahrir is a good man in the wrong party like what they are doing to Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong in Teluk Intan.
He will paint this as his last general election, that he is 77 and close to the end of his career. He will ask the Chinese to make Johor Baru the staging point to change the government and save Malaysia.
The script hardly changes from election to election and the amazing thing is that it seems to work.
However, Lim’s biggest hurdle is his image among many Malays who see his party as anti-Islam and anti-Malay especially after PAS was evicted from Pakatan.
Johor Baru has 53% Malay, 42% Chinese and 5% Indians. Lim cannot rely on Chinese votes alone to win.
If Lim moves to Johor Baru, then who will contest in Iskandar Puteri?
Some say the seat should go to Skudai assemblyman Dr Boo Cheng Hau who has been dropped and whose seat has been given to his former protégé Tan Hong Pin.
But the Lim father-and-son cannot get along with Dr Boo because he is not a yes-man although the official complaint is that Dr Boo is not a team player.
It would have been an amicable way out of the mini-crisis now brewing in Skudai over Dr Boo’s exclusion but that is not the way things work in DAP.
The party leadership does not want Dr Boo to make a comeback as the Johor chairman.
The other thing is that Johor Baru is a PKR seat and its Johor Baru chairman Akmal Nasir had been named as the likely candidate for the seat. It is unclear whether DAP will swap Iskandar Puteri for Johor Baru.
The latest speculation is that Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo may contest in Iskandar Puteri.
For the past one week, Lim has been pressuring Gobind to get his younger sister Sangeet Kaur Deo to contest in Puchong and for Gobind to move elsewhere.
Gobind has resisted the move because he knows what the public opinion will be with four of Karpal Singh’s children contesting the general election.
Lim’s insistence to bring in Sangeet is puzzling because he is an old hand in politics and he is aware of the outside gossip about nepotism and the Lim Dynasty.
So why is he pushing for it?
The talk is that the party may also put up his younger daughter Lim Hui Ying as a candidate.
Hui Ying has been very involved with the party and is ready for electoral politics.
However, some say that she has been assigned by the family to play chaperone to Lim during the general election, to make sure he gets enough rest and eats properly.
For Lim, going to Johor Baru is not only about taking on Shahrir but what Shahrir represents.
Moreover, Shahrir is the current face of Felda and he is one of the most enduring figures in Umno and Johor.
It is a very symbolic strike at the heart of Umno and its birthplace.
But it could also be Lim’s last hurrah in Malaysian politics.