Anil Netto takes a look at the Bakit Selambau state seat in Kedah where the MIC faces crunch time as Samy Vellu goes house-to-house campaigning.
The Bukit Selambau state seat by-election is is shaping up to be both a referendum on the future of the MIC and the Pakatan government’s performance in Kedah.
There has been local disgruntlement about the choice of PKR candidate, with the PKR leader seemingly opting for someone with a business and academic background, S Manikumar, a political greenhorn.
But the MIC too is recovering from the shambles of its just concluded presidential election, in which M Muthupalaniappan was prevented from contesting after the bulk of his nominations were rejected. A defeat in Bukit Selambau could hasten the party’s demise.
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It would be interesting to see what kind of reception the 73-year-old Samy Vellu, who has vowed that this would be his last term as MIC president, would receive in this area. He had promised to campaign door-to-door to garner support for his party and the BN. Malays make up half the 35,000 voters while ethnic Indians comprise 30 per cent.
Some Pakatan supporters believe Samy Vellu’s mere presence will be enough to give Pakatan the edge! In any case, it would be hard to see the MIC getting the majority of the ethnic Indian votes especially after the Makkal Sakthi uprising. Support for the MIC has eroded considerably in the area. In the 2008 general election, independent candiate V Arumugam, who later switched to the PKR, scored an upset victory by a 2,362 margin over the MIC, which in 2004 had won the seat by a 7,695 majority.
But Manikumar will be up against an experienced politician, S Ganesan, the Kedah MIC deputy chief and former Lunas state assembly member. The Pakatan’s campaign will also be hampered by a police ban on ceramah in public places, confining the PR to indoor forums – which effectively prevents them from reaching out to a larger audience via outdoor rallies.
Umno’s new deputy president Muhyiddin is likely to show up now and then during the campaign but it is Hishamuddin Hussein, who polled the second highest among the vice-presidents, who has been tasked with spearheading the local campaign.
Anwar is likely to be spending most of his time shuttling between Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai, while Bukit Gantang is assumed to be in the safe hands of Nizar and the strong network of Pas campaigners, supplemented by the DAP.
About the constituency
Bukit Selambau lies northeast of Sungai Petani and is one of two state seats under the Merbok parliamentary constituency. It’s a fairly large state seat with 35,000 voters. It used to be a predominantly a rubber plantation area, lying close to a railroad, which explains the relatively large ethnic Indian population (30 per cent), many of them descendants of rubber plantation workers.
There are 22 polling stations and 64 voting streams or saluran.
N25 – Bukit Selambau
N25 – Bukit Selambau
Datuk V Saravanan
Mustafa Khalid Hanafi
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