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Bk Selambau: A bumpy road to Bukit Selambau

Contributed by Anonymous on Wednesday, March 18 @ 22:46:44 CDT

National: Politics
NST, March 19 2009
THE Bukit Selambau by-election is shaping into a battle that neither Pakatan Rakyat nor Barisan Nasional could regard as a walk in the park. The task for Pakatan to retain the seat and for BN to wrest it back, has been made difficult with an imminent multi-cornered fight on April 7.

The excitement over the prospect of people from varied backgrounds contesting as independent candidates is simply unbelievable.

The interest expressed by some individuals has also sparked speculation that they could be sponsored by Umno which, before the announcement of MIC's Datuk S. Ganesan as BN candidate, had made a bid to get back the right to contest the seat.

If stories circulating in Umno about sponsored candidates are true, Malay voters -- who number about 18,000, including some 7,000 Umno members -- would be split. This is something BN could ill afford.
Umno was allocated Bukit Selambau for two consecutive terms from 1986 before the seat was given to MIC to contest in 1995, which from then on until 2008 was held by Kedah MIC chief and former executive councillor Datuk V. Saravanan. He did not contest in the last general election.

Should there be more than one independent Indian candidate, it would be a disadvantage to Pakatan and BN candidates -- both local Indians, since Indian votes will also be split.

Should this happen, the 7,000 Chinese votes will be crucial.

The latest "independent" to express interest is businessman Husaini Yaacob who announced his candidacy in Sungai Petani yesterday.

Merbok Umno division member Zahran Abdullah, the son of Umno veteran and former Kedah assembly speaker Datuk Abdullah Ismail, had paid the RM5,000 deposit to be a candidate and RM3,000 for election materials.

So have six more independent candidates.

"The Malays here have been sidelined for a long time. Voters want a Malay representative," said Zahran.

On the ground, fear of the by-election turning violent as candidates play the race card is real.

The state police had confirmed there were at least 17 hot-spots in the constituency.

Police beat bases have been set up, one conspicuously in front of a row of shophouses in Taman Tuanku Haminah, where four operation centres are operating too close together for comfort.

The operation centres belonging to Taman Ria Jaya and United Petani polling areas are just two doors away from Parti Keadilan Rakyat's main operation centre.

"It's the experience of Lunas," said state BN chief Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

"The police want to ensure public safety.

"We hope the by-election will not be marred by incidents caused by provocation from supporters of the candidates."

Lunas, another constituency in south Kedah, witnessed the most violent by-election in 2000.

Political watchers believe the fact that Bukit Selambau's voters elected V. Arumugam, wresting the former BN stronghold and traditional MIC seat on an independent ticket, attracted other Independent candidates to contest.

Those who had expressed their desire to stand as independents, however, claim they only want to serve the people living in the semi-urban area with 30,850 voters. Fifty per cent are Malays, 29 per cent Indians and 19 per cent Chinese.

MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, under pressure to ensure Ganesan wins to boost his popularity at the MIC presidential election a few days after the by-election, seems unperturbed over the increasing number of those expressing their intention to contest.

Samy Vellu has been making sure he spends three days a week in Bukit Selambau, meeting and hearing grouses of the people in estates and other Indians in the constituency.

This displeases some BN leaders, who think he is a liability, having lost the support of the Indians.

They fear Samy Vellu's appearance would alienate Indian voters, who comprise about 9,800 of the constituents, although Samy Vellu insists that the by-election is where he could test the acceptance of MIC's re-branding.

All the ingredients of excitement are there and what is certain is that there is a bumpy road ahead for candidates contesting in Bukit Selambau.



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