AN extraordinary orator always appreciates a good audience and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was at his dazzling best during the Jelajah Perpaduan Madani gathering on Friday evening.
It has been quite some time since Selangoreans saw him on the ceramah stage and being the Prime Minister has brought an added oomph! to his oratory.
He is also in great physical shape, pacing back and forth on the stage before a standing room only crowd as he lashed out at allegations that his government is controlled by DAP, that it has sidelined Islam and betrayed the Malays.
He rattled off all the measures he has taken on behalf of the Malays and Muslims since coming to power.
He defended his Pakatan Harapan partner DAP which has been the target of rather racist attacks by the opposition and it is clear that he is standing by Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi through thick and thin.
His camaraderie with the Umno leaders on stage was there for all to see.
It was an awesome show of unity and commitment by the new partners to work together to defend Selangor although some of the Umno supporters who arrived in buses looked like tourists in an unfamiliar setting, cheering and clapping only when their leaders spoke.
Power is a delicious thing but being on top also means that one is a sitting target for all kinds of attacks on social media and from the opposition.
It was quite ironic that an evening to launch the Pakatan/Barisan Nasional election machinery saw many of the leaders on the defensive mode. The rising cost of living is an urgent matter but the Madani government has been unable to address it head-on.
Moreover, the Malay base is emotionally caught up in a narrative that revolves around their rights as Malays and Muslims.
And that is why the green wave definition associated with Perikatan Nasional is not going away anytime soon.
The battle for Selangor will be a Malay battle. With the non-Malay votes locked up like a fixed deposit, whichever side wants to win Selangor has to capture the Malay heartland seats.
Even the backdrop of the stage at the launch featured only the Malay leaders - Anwar, Ahmad Zahid, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari and state Umno chief Datuk Wira Megat Zulkarnain Omardin.
The optics was very Malay for deliberate reasons.
Selangor DAP chairman Gobind Deo Singh, the only DAP leader on the stage, was seated at the far end of the stage.
Ties between DAP and Umno are still a touchy issue and DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke was visibly absent.
DAP is staying away from the limelight to pacify the Malay base although DAP’s Chinese supporters, fearful of PAS, are prepared to swallow their pride and support Umno.
It was rather weird to watch Umno and Pakatan leaders singing praises and pledging support for each other when just months ago, they were hurling insults and accusations.
They are unlikely to share the same stage on the campaign trail even though they need each other to take on Perikatan.
Pakatan leaders have also rubbished Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s claim that the Federal Constitution is not safe in the hands of the Madani government.
It is quite a baseless notion but this sort of claim tends to stir the feelings of the Malay right wing and even some ordinary Malays.
It is not uncommon to hear Malays say ahead of the state elections that, “kita orang Melayu kena undi parti Melayu,” that Malays must support Malay parties.
Dr Mahathir is no longer the force that he used to be. The Malays feel he has betrayed them but it would be a mistake to dismiss what he says as the ramblings of an expired force.
“When he talks about the Malays not being in control of Putrajaya, that DAP is too powerful, it is not entirely true. But there are Malays out there who agree with him. People want to hear what they already believe and he knows how to play on their sentiments,” said an Umno supreme council member.
Dr Mahathir’s Malay Proclamation venture has not exactly caught fire but the civil servants and even middle class Malays are watching.
Umno leaders from the six state elections are gathered at the party’s retreat base in Janda Baik this weekend where the Prime Minister will be addressing them.
Ahmad Zahid has tried his utmost best to convince his party to accept their former enemies. Bringing in Anwar to address the Umno army is like a last resort to ramp up the election mood.
Ahmad Zahid has been the talk of the town after returning from leave with a completely new face which his daughter explained to be a result of surgery for his optic nerve problem.
His wrinkles have disappeared, his forehead looks smooth and he looks 10 years younger.
Will his new and younger look bring a new energy to his leadership? Chinese who are into fengshui say that changing one’s face also changes one’s luck. Perhaps his luck will change for the better and help his party win seats to stay alive.
Selangor is under siege although it is hard to see the state falling to Perikatan.
Some have tried to paint the six state elections a referendum on the Madani government. Actually, said an aide to a former minister, it is more of a barometer on whether Umno is still relevant to the Malays. The state polls are for Umno to prove that it is still a voice for the Malays.
> The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own