The people are beginning to see Mahathir’s role in Najib’s administration is not receding but mounting. Apparently, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was squeezed out from his post as Prime Minister in 2009 by the maverick politician, Mahathir. Could the same happen to Najib if he decides not to ‘listen' to Mahathir? Mahathir is still influential in UMNO politics not because he is too good a politician but there are factions within UMNO who would want to see Najib tumble. “But if Najib and UMNO tumble, BN has to close shop,” says a political observer. “Pakatan will form the next government.” Mahathir is thus perceived by some political observers as the right man who can decide Najib’s fate and possibly give more hope to the many other UMNO aspirants to climb up the political ladder.
The buzz is that before Najib decided on his Cabinet line-up, he was somewhat ‘warned' by Mahathir that Khairy Jamaluddin – the elected UMNO Youth leader – should be excluded from the Cabinet. True as envisaged, when the Cabinet line-up was announced, Khairy was excluded. Perhaps this must be the first time in the history of UMNO where its Youth leader has not been given any Cabinet post. “With that move by Najib, Khairy’s political fate is sealed,” says an UMNO lawmaker. To some political observers, even Khairy’s performance as a Youth leader is dismal: “He does not have the right charisma as a leader. The next general election would most probably see him not contesting at all.” The political murmur is that Khairy will lose his post as Youth chief in the next UMNO elections much to the delight of Mahathir.
Not only that, the hum was that Mahathir signalled to Najib that all Abdullah’s men should also have been thrust aside from the post Abdullah Cabinet line-up. Shahrir Abdul Samad – being a fine politician – and realising the consequence, made a pre-emptive move. He decided to tender his resignation as a minister even before the new Cabinet line-up was announced. He nattily backed out before the axe fell on him. He could have sensed that the new Cabinet was going to be a Mahathir-charted Cabinet.
Muhyiddin is obdurate that the policy has to be totally scrapped. RM5billion ringgit of taxpayers’ money was wasted on the PPSMI which lasted for only nine years before it came to naught. Had this been in another democratic country the whole cabinet members would have resigned and many leaders would have been sent to the political dungeon.
Mahathir’s presence was quite noticeable during the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau, by-elections in 2009. Najib – the incoming PM at the time – was practically kept away from the scenes. Mahathir went to the ground trying to salvage UMNO and BN but was stung taut by the ‘mountain bees' at both the constituencies and both the seats finally went to Pakatan – PAS and PKR.
Mahathir as a ‘retired general’ after leading the country for 22 years with relative success cannot live in peace seeing UMNO crumbling under Najib despite BN winning a few by-elections thereafter. Najib seems to be losing more support currently by depending on Mahathir to salvage his image. Mahathir perhaps seems to be unhappy to see Najib more into building his image rather than focusing more on economic development for the country.