Opposition DAP's offensive in Johor may have backfired: Columnist

Big names in the Democratic Action Party are willing to move to seats only where they can be assured of victory

A week is a long time in politics and what a week it has been in the politics of Johor - from the Crown Prince's controversial statement on the politics of his state to the chaotic supermarket run on April 11.

Although Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, or TMJ as he is known, said his statement on Johor politics came from his heart, the perception was that he would not have acted without his father's blessings.

All this has to be seen in the context of the image of the Sultan of Johor. His popularity is at an all-time high, he has built up a reputation as the people's sultan and everywhere one turns in Johor Baru, there are billboards declaring, "Daulat Tuanku", or "Long live the King".

TMJ's controversial statement has forced political players in Johor to reassess their strategies and focus.

Although the palace angst seems to be aimed at Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it affects the rest of opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, given that he is its prime minister nominee.

According to a Democratic Action Party (DAP) politician, it might impede the Malay momentum that Pakatan needs in Johor, and it has complicated DAP's push to win more seats and make inroads into the mixed seats.

Even without the palace factor, DAP had encountered problems in its design to wipe out Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in Johor. Its plan to move the big names to difficult seats in Johor and elsewhere has not been smooth.

Not many DAP big names are willing to risk it, with several indicating they will move only to seats where they can be assured of winning.

To date, only Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong has taken what is seen as a real plunge, venturing into Ayer Hitam to take on the MCA deputy president.

Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching, who raised the battle cry to wipe out MCA, has backed away from taking on MCA vice-president Chua Tee Yong in Labis. She wants to remain in Kulai, which she won by more than 13,000 votes in 2013.

Mr Gobind Singh Deo, the son of the late Karpal Singh, is also reluctant to leave his Puchong seat.

The DAP leadership tried to make Skudai assemblyman Boo Cheng Hau go to Ayer Hitam first and then Labis. DAP chief Lim Kit Siang personally met Dr Boo to persuade him, but Dr Boo's view was that the party should have given him more notice so he could have carried out some political programmes instead of just parachuting in.

He has insisted on remaining in Skudai where he has managed to maintain the people's support despite being sidelined by the DAP leadership.

Dr Boo's former protege Tan Hong Pin, who is a Mengkibol assemblyman, recently posted an open letter on Facebook pressing Dr Boo to take a risk for the future of the party.


Mr Tan said he was willing to give up his Mengkibol seat and go to Skudai. That upset Dr Boo's supporters who slammed Mr Tan for seemingly betraying his former mentor.

The fact that Mr Wong Tack is again contesting in Bentong against MCA president Liow Tiong Lai suggests that DAP is unable to live up to its "king fight king" objective.

Mr Wong was a sensation in 2013 when he projected himself as a passionate environmentalist before falling off the radar.

He cannot compare to what Mr Liow has brought to Bentong, and pitting Mr Wong against the MCA president makes the battle elsewhere less convincing.

There are other reasons why the DAP offensive in Johor may have backfired.

The Chinese do not agree with the idea of wiping out MCA, which played a significant role in sorting out Chinese issues and providing the link between the government and small and medium-sized enterprises and other businesses.

The community, especially the business sector and Chinese guilds and associations, are concerned about a move that will see the "Chinese kill Chinese".

But wasn't that what the Chinese voters did to MCA and Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia in the 2013 general election?

That year, Chinese voters were told they were voting against Umno but the end result saw the Chinese almost wiping out MCA and Gerakan candidates.

This time, it was a direct pitch to finish off MCA, and it did not go down well with community leaders.

Some of them have asked why they should kill off MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong, who has championed Chinese education and spoken up on Chinese issues. They see him as a capable leader.

They feel they are being asked to choose between "fish and bear's paw", referring to a Chinese saying denoting a difficult choice between two delicacies during China's imperial era.

The DAP offensive was also supposed to be complemented by partners. DAP had hoped big names such as Mr Muhyiddin Yassin, Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar and Mr Mohamad Sabu would move south to lend their clout.

As Pakatan's Menteri Besar candidate, Mr Muhyiddin ought to be taking on Mr Khaled Nordin in Kempas and Pasir Gudang. But the former deputy prime minister is contesting in Pagoh as well as the Gambir state seat.

Mr Sabu has opted for a safe seat in Kota Raja, Selangor, while Ms Nurul Izzah is eyeing a safe haven in either Permatang Pauh or Pandan.

The Malay partners failed to rise to the occasion, and that is why it is difficult to convince people that a Malay tsunami is on the way. DAP alone playing the strongman politics has also sent the wrong signal to the Malays in Johor.

Aiming to capture Johor was a high-stakes game and DAP seems to have underestimated the distrust that the Malay rulers have for Dr Mahathir.

But it is too late to back off.

Perhaps the most curious aspect of DAP's "king fight king" strategy is that only the second liners are being sent to the battlefront.

It gives the impression that the top leaders are not willing to do or die.

But those who have been studying Mr Lim's politics over the years think the Gelang Patah MP may have a surprise up his sleeve. They cannot believe DAP's most powerful figure will take the easy way out and remain in Gelang Patah, which he won with a majority of more than 14,000 votes.

Speculation that he will risk it all in Johor Baru seems to have petered off and a new round of speculation has begun over where Mr Lim will go. - THE STAR