AGAINST ROTTEN odds, a dead man walking “hex“ -and two very fortunate providences, the colourful Khairy Jamaludin sublimely snatched the Umno Youth chief’s mantle over the meanest three-way dogfight ever staged in the movement after trailing early frontrunner Dr Khir Toyo and enduring a late surge from Mukhriz Mahathir to inadvertently capitalise on the messy balloting split that wildly swung in his favour.
It could only mean this: an ambitious man can’t be put down and it is not impossible to resurrect the dead during a grisly political climate. You could almost feel the resigned shudder of his harshest critics when Khairy triumphantly raised his hands as the results were blared out in the hall. What his critics would give to wipe out that smirk on his face.
In the underwhelming 304 votes that Khairy polled, it amazingly transformed into a minority winning tally but more than adequate for him to scrappily nudged Khir (254 votes) and Mukhriz (232 votes). However, Khairy will appreciate the sardonic irony here: had it been a straight fight, he would have been left dangling on the abyss of defeat and with that, possibly contemplating the sensational collapse of his burgeoning political career as an Umno scion.
Khairy’s victory was one that was seized because Mukhriz and Khir, whether unwittingly or not, obliterated each other out of the reckoning. If Khir and Mukhriz had negotiated something of a deal for one of them to pull out, Khairy would have roiled in a hiding. This fortunate win was obviously reflected in the vice chief’s battle where Khairy’s running mate, Reezal Merican Naina Merican, lost stupendously to Razali Ibrahim in a direct face-off.
Before the results were out, Khairy had flexed over national TV, where results were telecast live, a highly confident grin wider than the one he posed when he won the Rembau parliamentary seat. In any case, his elevation from vice chief to Umno Youth supremo at a fledgling age of 33 meant that he surmounted a noxious acid test in the dog-eat-dog survival of the fittest domain of Umno polity. This makes his March 8 victory in the Rembau parliamentary seat looked like a cakewalk when many of his Umno and Barisan comrades were slashed and burned.
But victory last night wasn’t won cleanly, the guilty verdict handed down by the Umno disciplinary Board that he breached party code of ethics shimmering like a halo over his head. He scraped by on a “technicality” after the board decided that his guilt was lessened by the fact that his so-called agent distributing the bung was “indirectly linked” in the strange parlance of his punisher.
That’s two fortuitous happenstances and if you want to be hard on him, you could say that Khairy survived on a fluke by rolling the dices that tumbled favourably into a double six. How much luckier can he get? Will this bung charge that he escaped from drag the new Umno Youth leadership and its high-energy leader? From the moment their candidate had been vanquished, Mukhriz’s supporters made it explicitly clear that they intend to remind Khairy of this fetidness at every opportune moment.
It used to be that Umno Youth, going by historical tradition, was that of a high-octane pressure group that doggedly checks on anything and everything affecting the Malay agenda, including Government policies that fall short on the Umno ideal. In the years before erstwhile leader Anwar Ibrahim took down Suhaimi Kamaruddin twice, in 1982 and 1984, to become Umno Youth chief, the Youth leader was independent, not a Cabinet Minister and free from conforming to the leadership mores of the day. But the tradition was dumped after the Anwar ascendency, in favour of a more “cooperative” Umno Youth whose leader was part of the Establishment. The pressure group work ethic and public integrity was forever shed.
There’s this early talk that Khairy may be offered a Cabinet posting. The Prime Minister-designate may have a different idea. But it should not be rancorous to Khairy if a Cabinet posting is not imminent. When his father-in-law was PM, didn’t Khairy rejected the idea that he should be part of the Abdullah Administration, preferring to operate on the outside? This concept may continue, at least in the next few years while Khairy reforms Umno Youth into reassuming its original pressure group sobriety. If he needed any consultation on how to reignite one, he could seek Suhaimi Kamaruddin’s guiding wisdom.
But the re-metamorphosis demands a higher calling for Khairy: he may have to be prepared to wear a heavily pro-Malay stance to the point of being slapped with an ultra-nationalist tag, for that was the badge of honour Suhaimi wore after insisting consistently in the Dewan Rakyat that the bumiputera/Malays 30 per cent stake in the nation’s economic stakes be bolstered to 50 per cent.
And there’s this other niggling mid-term problem that Khairy would have to check: Mukhriz Mahathir. Who’s to say the scion of Mahathirism won’t mount a second crack at the title in 2012, with a clear understanding from all comers that it would be a straight fight. No Khir Toyo or other characters of similitude to hinder the spoils that should have been Mukhriz’s to grab.
That’s a prospect for all fire-breathing supporters of the two forerunners to savour, the rematch of the decade where Mukhriz takes the crown that should have been his in the first place and obliges Khairy to eat dust. Unless of course, being the young, ambitious man in a hurry he is reputed to be, Khairy may just pre-empt this future spectacle by catapulting himself into the fray of the vice-presidency, running for one of the three slots available and pit himself against the more established party principals. It’s so incredible that it could just be feasible.
Khairy has just that unalloyed derring-do to roll that lucky dice of his and leap for the jugular, the youngest Umno vice-president ever at 36. He’s already the youngest Umno Youth chief and to meet the timeline/deadline he had impressed upon others to become the YOUNGEST Prime Minister of Malaysia before the age of 40, he needs to stick to this gameplan. If he has the nerve to do so in 2012, that would be awesomely ambitious…and devastatingly disturbing to his multitude of nemeses in Umno and across the political divide.
Khairy’s win – dark and disturbing