STILL angry and frustrated, Batu Pahat Umno chief Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi has moved a step closer to his threat to contest against Umno in the general election.
He has tendered his resignation as director-general of the Special Affairs Department (Jasa), a move perceived as a prelude to contesting the Batu Pahat parliamentary and Senggarang state seats as an Independent.
Dr Mohd Puad’s threat to go against Umno came about after he was not named as the Barisan Nasional candidate for Batu Pahat.
Behaviour like this is often associated with power-crazy warlords and the action of this once-rising star in Johor politics sent shockwaves through Johor Umno.
He has since lashed out at a string of people, from Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to the selected candidate Haliza Abdullah, who is also the Wanita Umno chief in his division.
He has slammed his party’s system of selecting candidates as “rotten and corrupted”, claiming he has been treated like rubbish.
“Enough is enough. I will fight to the last drop,” he declared.
His latest Facebook posting to announce his resignation from Jasa continued to rail against Umno.
He seemed particularly upset with Dr Ahmad Zahid for suggesting that he was not a winnable candidate in Batu Pahat.
He posed with what appeared to be his resignation letter, concluding with a message pointing to his next course of action: “Until I win.”
Sabotage and infighting over seats and candidature is something that Umno is quite famous for.
But Dr Mohd Puad, who is also a supreme council member, was the last person Umno leaders had expected to act in such a manner.
The PhD holder, who was groomed by former mentri besar Tan Sri Ghani Othman, had always slammed people who are disloyal to Umno. Yet, there he was doing what he used to criticise others for.
The Johor Umno leadership is unsure how to handle him because Dr Mohd Puad has a reputation as a fighting cock who is not afraid to take on anyone, big or small.
Independents rarely win elections and public opinion is that he may secure only about 3,000 votes at the most, but that may be enough to cost Umno the seat.
Batu Pahat is a Malay-majority constituency with three state seats – Penggaram is Chinese-majority, while Rengit and Senggarang are Malay-majority.
Despite that, Dr Mohd Puad lost to PKR in 2013. He thinks he was a victim of the Chinese tsunami, but there was also some protest voting going on – he lost by 1,732 votes, but there were 1,445 spoilt votes.
Many Chinese in Batu Pahat also see him as a Malay ultra. The local Chinese say he is haolian, a Hokkien slang word for proud.
He also has problems with the popular Rengit assemblyman Ayub Jamil.
In fact, Ayub was Umno’s first choice to contest in Batu Pahat, but he wanted to remain an assemblyman and had told his wife to pray that he was not selected as a parliamentary candidate.
Ayub held a special session with some 44 Umno branch leaders in his area on Tuesday to explain what had happened.
He almost broke down in tears when appealing to them to go all out for Barisan candidates.
No one can quite figure out Dr Mohd Puad’s obsession with being a candidate. He is accomplished – he has been a senator and deputy education minister, and his Jasa post is equivalent to that of a minister.
Barisan was confident of recapturing Batu Pahat until the Dr Mohd Puad episode.
Dr Ahmad Zahid was in Batu Pahat yesterday for a unit trust event. There was speculation that he would meet with Dr Mohd Puad and persuade him to change his mind, but the latter was a no-show.
However, there is another story going around that Dr Mohd Puad’s name was struck out by a “higher authority” in Johor.
The original Umno list reportedly included his name but when Dr Ahmad Zahid presented the list to the “higher authority”, Dr Mohd Puad’s name was singled out for rejection.
Haliza, a lawyer, was picked because she is seen as a neutral figure with a wider support base.
She is set to face off with PKR’s Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, the Penang Deputy Chief Minister.
Rashid has been dropped from the Penang PKR line-up and parachuted into Batu Pahat, but he is the least of her worries.
The enemy from within is always more lethal and her concern is Dr Mohd Puad and the votes he could possibly take away from Umno.
If Dr Mohd Puad also contests the Senggarang state seat, he will be facing his division deputy and ally Zaidi Jaafar. It will be a very awkward campaign.
What would Dr Mohd Puad’s election campaign be about? Given what has happened, nobody is going to buy a story about serving the people or bringing change and development to Batu Pahat.
Everyone can see that he is contesting out of revenge. He wants to teach Umno a lesson for not allowing him to contest.
He knows he cannot win, but if he cannot have it, then he also does not want Umno to have it.