Source: The Malaysian Insight
IN most states, Dr Mahathir Mohamad is viewed by Pakatan Harapan as an asset to influence the Malay ground and a major challenge to the ruling Barisan Nasional.
But in Kelantan, the opposite is true.
Here, the former prime minister is seen as a liability for the opposition, and BN are more than happy to make Dr Mahathir the main platform as it seeks to wrest control of the east coast state that has been in the hands of PAS since 1990.
The reason for this anomaly: Dr Mahathir’s record of punishing the Kelantanese for supporting PAS when he was PM.
In their speeches, BN leaders have contrasted Dr Mahathir’s treatment of Kelantan throughout his 22-year reign to that of current Prime Minister and BN chairman Najib Razak.
Kelantan Barisan Nasional chief Mustapa Mohamed said it is known that Dr Mahathir used to pressure and punish the Kelantanese for their consistent support towards PAS in the three general elections.
Kelantan leaders, including the late Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, used to complain that Dr Mahathir deprived the state of much-needed federal funds.
“In the past, there were all sorts of pressure. People say the Kelantanese were punished by Dr Mahathir,” Mustapa told The Malaysian Insight.
In his visit last weekend, Najib laid out this fact by boasting about how much money his administration gave Kelantan compared with the Dr Mahathir administration.
In the space of 24 years, from 1981 to 2005, the federal government gave out RM12.07 billion to Kelantan. Dr Mahathir was the PM from 1981 to 2003.
But from 2006 to 2018, about RM14.67 billion was allocated to Kelantan. Najib started his term as prime minister from 2009, taking over from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
BN currently holds 12 seats in the 45 state assembly. PKR holds one while the rest are held by PAS.
A The Malaysian Insight straw poll found that more than half of Kelantan voters were dissatisfied with the PAS state government.
More than half of the 21 people interviewed said they wanted a change in the state government in GE14.
The wave of discontent is driven by poor services from the local council, water supply problems and a lack of development and paucity of jobs.
However, it is still unclear whether this backlash will translate into more votes for BN and its lynchpin party Umno as Kelantan PH is aggressively positioning itself as a viable alternative to both PAS and BN.
PH had named Dr Mahathir as PM-designate in the belief that the former BN chief is popular among older, rural voters, who remember him for transforming Malaysia into a regional manufacturing powerhouse in the 1990s.
Mustapa believes that Najib’s attitude towards Kelantan will give BN an edge in the state over PH now that Dr Mahathir has been named its PM-designate if the opposition wins federal power.
“Najib is more popular in Kelantan compared with Dr Mahathir,” Mustapa said, adding that the prime minister’s popularity will help BN win over the Kelantanese.
“Najib is open and inclusive. Even the Kelantan menteri besar (Ahmad Yakob) has said it is easier to deal with Najib compared with Dr Mahathir.
“This is how Najb and Dr Mahathir are different. Najib does not pressure, he is more open. He does not use the ISA (Internal Security Act).
“There is more freedom of expression and this makes the Kelantanese more confident in us,” said Mustapa, who was a member of the Dr Mahathir administration.