Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s visit to Penang over the weekend had all the hallmarks of an election campaign tour with just one thing missing – the date for polling day.
On show, in enemy heartland, were very different sides to Najib the Prime Minister and Najib the BN Chairman.
Firstly there he was replacing key personnel at the top of Penang BN. Najib had long promised to select winnable candidates for GE13, which is a polite way of saying he wants to clear out the dead wood and have candidates who are connected to the rakyat. Improving the Penang BN machine so it can better fight DAP in that state is also part of this process.
Next came his rallying call to 5000 Penang BN supporters at the Bukit Jawi Golf Club in Nibong Tebal – an attempt to “fire up” the coalition ahead of the campaign proper.
And finally there was also the promise of RM8.5mil for development projects in the Nibong Tebal constituency including the construction of a multi-purpose hall and repairs to Indian and Chinese houses.
This is not the behaviour of a man who believes Penang is too great a challenge for BN but then, Najib has never put Penang in the too hard basket. Last year, just two months after having knee surgery he turned up in George Town for a charity bike ride in aid of Chinese Schools.
That’s right Chinese Schools – with the Prime Minister on a bicycle surrounded by 5000 mostly Chinese school children wearing white 1Malaysia shirts. (And Lim Guan Eng conspicuous by his yellow shirt.)
Najib clearly does not believe that the parents of those Chinese school children will automatically cast their votes for DAP. In Najib’s world there is no religious or ethnic group that is off limits to his government as it seeks re-election – if the incumbent parties are prepared to work hard enough.
In his speech at the Bukit Jawi Golf Club Najib over the weekend Najib sought to both fire up the troops and to reinforce his idea that in order to be re-elected nationally, BN will have to axe those not deemed to be “winnable candidates”, in other words, those who aren’t good enough.
Knowing that some of them were sitting in the room, Najib’s message was not only that they should get over it, but that they should stay true to the cause and re-double their efforts to help their party achieve success at GE13.
“Do not sulk when not selected,” he said.
“Do not sabotage the party…this should not happen.”
“We won’t feel tired when we win, so we must package strategies for us to achieve victory, we must accept the reality, we must have reform in the BN at all levels,” he said.
With that kind of language, we can tell Najib is dead serious about choosing only the best of the winnable candidates. And in doing so, he is beginning to reshape BN.