It was not a coincident when former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad went down to Gelang Patah in Johore Baru on Saturday night to speak to the voters there.
Neither was it a talk reminiscing old times and old stories about Johore or Dr Mahathir’s experiences with Johoreans during his time as Prime Minister.
It’s a matter of confronting an old foe in an old political feud but in a totally new ‘war and turf’ for the coming 13th general election that is considered as the ‘mother of all elections’.
That’s how it is now between Dr Mahathir and DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, and the latter knows what Dr Mahathir is up to and what the latter can do to win the eharts and minds of voters there.
While Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak ‘fights’ the political battle in the arena, Dr Mahathir is playing the ‘sideline’ defending Umno and Barisan Nasional to make sure BN retains and strengthen its position while Kit Siang is all out to unseat BN and put Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister.
Dr Mahathir and Kit Siang have been ‘political enemies’ since time immemorial, since the days of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman but both only began a head-on collision when Dr Mahathir became Prime Minister in 1981.
Calculative, politically shrewd and ultra in each other’s way, both men had shown political maturity all along their ‘political battles’ until DAP joined the unregistered opposition pact and called themselves Pakatan Rakyat.
Since then, after the March 2008 general election, DAP has embarked on racial issues and character assassinations that is led by Anwar and PKR.
Whether DAP, although known as chauvinistic for championing Chinese issues, approves all Anwar and PKR’s approach in attempting to win the hearts and minds of voters, the fact is that DAP goes along as the campaigns get more vigorous.
Kit Siang had lost in seat he contested during Dr Mahathir’s time as Prime Minister and chairman of BN and Kit Siang knows Dr Mahathir’s ‘political shrewdness’ while Dr Mahathir knows Kit Siang’s weaknesses and strong points.
In the words of an Umno member of Kota Star who was a former political secretary to DAP Penang vice chairman who also doubled as Kit Siang’s research man when the latter was the Opposition leader in Parliament: “Both veterans have similar characteristics – firm, brave and politically adventurous.”
“Both possessed a vision and the only difference is Dr Mahathir is loved by the masses, not just Malays while Kit Siang is sectorial – meaning attracts only the Chinese,” he said, who joined Umno when Dr Mahathir became the party president.
Ramli said for Kit Siang, moving constituency was nothing new as his adventurous streak had always been successful given that the community needed a Chinese voice in Parliament.
However, he added that Kit Siang mostly appeals to the street Chinese rather than educated Chinese but even then, when Kit Siang contest in a majority Chinese seat, he will emerge as winner.
For Kit Siang, he can contest anywhere he likes, provided the seat is Chinese majority and he can win because the Chinese are united in wanting to have a voice in Parliament.
But for Dr Mahathir, Kit Siang’s move to Johore is not to be taken lightly as this would mean Johore is vulnerable if Kit Siang wins.
Being a bastion of Umno and BN, no seat should be allowed to go to the opposition as this can be ‘cancerous and contagious’ given the current political scenario where it is racially divided.
Dr Mahathir does not expect all the voters in Gelang Patah to listen and follow what he said nor he expect them to reject everything he said as Dr Mahathir likes people to go back and think what he has said.
Kit Siang on the other hand is just ‘rolling in’ as he expects if he can win, then the next general election, will be no longer hard for DAP and the opposition to win more seats.
And Kit Siang has the Malays who support PKR and PAS in Johre and Gelang Patah to back him, after all, he goes for one mission – to put Anwar as Prime Minister and whatever he speaks will be what Anwar wanted.
He may speak about his party’s philosophies but still with Anwar as Prime Minister and his edge is the party can use Anwar to get its objectives met.