SAJAHAN ABDUL WAHEED: Umno realises need to be realistic

(NST) – AFTER almost a week into campaigning, Umno and its partners in Barisan Nasional seem quite clear about the need to be realistic.

Umno has acknowledged that all would not be smooth sailing, aware that the tide is slightly against it and what's needed is more concrete efforts to ensure a victory come Saturday.

Party vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said things have changed for the better, compared with the situation prior to nomination day last Tuesday.

"The spirit of party workers is rather high now. We have accepted our weaknesses and have worked to rectify them. Even our candidate (Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh) is smiling more now, looks very friendly and is approachable."

Ali said voters have begun to realise that they would have more to gain if Wan Farid is elected, especially since the party leadership has given the assurance that he would be re-appointed as a deputy minister.

Indeed it was Wan Farid's weaknesses that the opposition had exploited all the while. He was seen as being aloof and having problems in communicating with the ordinary folk, as a result of his elitist tag.

But over the days, there have been changes in him although some feel that more could be done.

Another major stumbling block was the "factionalism" in the state Umno leadership between the supporters of Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said and those of his predecessor, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

It had been no secret that there was animosity between the two men. The Idris camp felt that he had been totally sidelined in the by-election.

A state assemblyman aligned to Idris said: "Initially, of course, we were upset because Ahmad did not use our services. Only those close to him were running the show.

"But then again, we are aware that this by-election is not about Ahmad Said alone. We appreciate the fact that our deputy prime minister is practically camping in Kuala Terengganu and we must help our leader.

"That is why we have set aside our personal feelings and are working hard to ensure a victory for Umno."

Indeed, the regular presence of Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Kuala Terengganu has helped boost BN's chances of winning.

With Najib around, other party leaders and workers have doubled their efforts to deny Pas candidate Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut a victory.

The new approach adopted in this by-election, where Umno leaders are given specific polling stations to monitor, has worked out well. This, at least, helps ensure that there is less politicking among the leaders in the run-up to the March party elections.

Umno leaders are forced to ensure victory for the party in the areas under their supervision as this would reflect on their performance.

MCA and MIC, too, are not taking things easy. The Chinese voters have been labelled the "king makers" and MCA has increased its efforts to attract them, although the opposition has attracted large crowds at its ceramah.

With only another five days of campaigning left, the race is still wide open and Umno's decision to accept reality in Kuala Terengganu could help boost its chances for a victory.