KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — The MIC must reclaim Indian voters as Barisan Nasional’s (BN) “fixed deposit” in the next general elections, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
The BN chairman reminded his coalition partners of their embarrassing defeat in Election 2008 when massive numbers of Indians voted in favour of the opposition parties that led to the birth of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact, and urged them not to be swayed by empty promises.
“In the past 11 general elections, MIC was the main contributor to BN’s fixed deposit but in the 12th GE, it became something else when the government lost that fixed deposit.
“I hope in the 13th general elections, which are soon, MIC can return the fixed deposit to BN. Can, gentlemen?” the Umno president asked the thousands of delegates at the MIC assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here, today.
Najib, who is also prime minister, reminded delegates that a vote for the opposition is “a vote for chaos.”
“Do you still remember what happened to the Kampung Buah Pala promise? Promises remain promises, only empty promises,” he said, raising the spectre of the 2009 housing controversy in Penang that signalled the start of the Indian community’s disenchantment with the PR pact they had voted in at the 12th general elections.
The Kampung Buah Pala controversy came about when the residents, who were mostly Indian squatters, were ordered to vacate the land before August 3 following the sale of the 2.6-hectare land by the previous BN state government to Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd.
The villagers who occupied the land — nicknamed the High Chaparral, after the late 60s Western-themed television series about ranchers — had first sought the PR government’s help to intervene after they were issued eviction notices.
They turned against the state after failing to get Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to negotiate a compensation deal to their liking with the developer.
Najib had raised the same issue yesterday during a whirlwind tour of Penang.
“Gentlemen, you must remember, a vote for the opposition means a vote for chaos. Must remember that, gentlemen,” he told the MIC assembly today, the last before national elections are called.
Najib said the Indians who voted for PR did not do so because they liked the opposition pact, but were signalling to BN leaders that they would face a change of guard if they did not serve the community.
“In 2008, they chose the opposition not because they liked the opposition. But it was a message to BN leaders to change according to the Indian community’s aspirations.
“I admit many mistakes then, but now BN has changed. Isn’t that right, gentlemen?” he said to thunderous cheers and applause.
In Election 2008, decades of frustrations at being left out of development saw the Indian community flee from BN’s side, adding to the ruling pact’s historical loss of its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority.
But since then, Najib has been actively courting the community, seen now as the possible game-changer for the coming 13th general election.
For example, the prime minister allocated RM100 million to upgrade Tamil schools in Budget 2012, the same amount given to Chinese schools and religious schools.
The Indian vote is seen as crucial to determine BN’s future in the country as the next general election is expected to be a very closely fought battle between the ruling coalition and the fledgling PR pact.
Observers have claimed that Najib and BN leaders have lost confidence in the MIC’s ability to score the Indian vote, resulting in efforts by the prime minister to engage directly with the community, who form nearly 1.8 million out of the 28-million-strong population in Malaysia. Some 800,000 are registered voters.