PKR claws back Bkt Selambau Indians

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

PKR struck back yesterday in the race for Indian votes by claiming 6,000 defections from PPP Kedah after its start to the Bukit Selambau campaign was blighted by unhappiness from its Indian ranks.

The defection led by vice president Datuk V. Nadarajan was announced at a ceramah headlined by de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim last night.

The crossovers overwhelms the 356 members that former Jerai division chief B. Kalaivanar claims to have pulled out of the party on the first day of campaigning.

"Even though we were in Barisan Nasional, our hearts have always been with the opposition," Nadarajan said of the 62 branches from six Kedah divisions.

Anwar, in his speech, expressed his disbelief at how other BN component party leaders could persist with the governing coalition despite what he says is Umno's oppression of non-Malays.

"I fail to understand how leaders in MCA, MIC or Gerakan can remain within BN. I am a Malay and a Muslim and I will defend my rights and also that of other races.

"But for them, anything is okay, just give us a deputy prime minister post," he said, mocking MCA's call.

Of the 6,000 defecting PPP members, 1,500 are claimed to be Bukit Selambau voters. However, speaking to reporters later, Nadarajan revealed that only 300 or so PKR membership forms had been filled with the rest to follow after the April 7 poll.

PKR had yesterday promised a "big announcement" at last night's ceramah but Anwar insisted that the PPP defections were not it.

"I was to make an announcement tonight but after a discussion last night, we have decided that it is too dangerous to do it now.

"When we win the three by-elections on April 7, then I will make the announcement," the opposition leader said anti-climactically.

Pakatan Rakyat however, believes that tonight's defections could be a deciding factor in what is expected to be a photo-finish in Bukit Selambau due to a revival in BN's fortunes since Datuk Seri Najib Razak became Umno president, leading to his appointment as prime minister on Friday.