By Paul Bellow
Kedah caretaker chief minister Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor is basking in the warm glow of hero worship in the aftermath of his arrest and appearance in court.
When he returned home, he was greeted like a brave warrior who had stood up to state power, thus bolstering his political career.
Sanusi will be in the dock later, but meanwhile, the Perikatan Nasional election director will continue to hog the limelight. The looming courtroom drama will take secondary stage to the political drama that is unfolding in the run-up to elections in six states.
Despite the court-ordered gag imposed on him, the incumbent assembly member for Jeneri, while stirring up other issues, could portray himself as a victim of political persecution.
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Already a hero in the eyes of his fanatical supporters, Sanusi could whip up sentiments against his political foes when campaigning for the state polls moves into full swing.
Enacting the role of a victimised, tragic figure, the rabble-rouser in him is likely to launch scathing attacks on the “Madani” government to sway public opinion in his favour.
Other Pas leaders could jump onto the Sanusi bandwagon to show solidarity and sing praises of their man while talking up his credentials as a promising leader who could one day helm Pas and lead the charge against fortress Putrajaya in a general election.
Sanusi is already acting like the man of the hour who sees his political star rising because of all his antics, which have pushed him to the forefront of national politics.
He paints himself as a fearless leader. Striking an Anwar Ibrahim-like pose, he probably thinks he can tread the same path from prison (if he is convicted) to eventual release and glory.
Many voters in Kedah might vote for this political maverick if he is nominated to stand in Jeneri. If he is not chosen, he would most likely play the role of an injured party who deserves sympathy not only from Kedah but from all the other five states as well.
Playing to the gallery
On the campaign trail, the moment Sanusi makes his grand entrance, his reception can be expected to be boisterous.
Already ingrained in the minds of many in Kedah is the image of him as a hero who went to court with his head held high up and left the court with his hand raised up. So, expect Sanusi to play to the gallery with gusto.
In a sense, his court case is intertwined with politics and it will be near impossible to separate the two. A resounding victory in the political court would overshadow any outcome in the legal arena.
If Pas bags all the six states with considerable vituperative input from this native son of Kedah, the party will deem the triumph as a vindication of Sanusi’s criticism of the federal government.
The personality cult around Sanusi would then grow enormously.
Villain of the piece
But all is not rosy for this demagogue. If some folk in Kedah see this political agitator as a godsend, many others in the rest of Malaysia only know him as a person who has caused so much damage to ethnic relations.
A hero must be someone who fights for the good of the country. A politician would be a hero if he dedicates his public life to selfless service to the people, regardless of their ethnicity or creed.
But Sanusi does not fit the description of a hero in his public service career. His racially charged and divisive style of politics does not qualify him to be included among the pantheon of heroes.
Some people in Kedah may have honoured him with a rousing airport reception, but many other right-minded folk only see him as the villain of the piece.
Sanusi is no hero.
Paul Bellow is the pseudonym of a reader of Aliran