Three slaps for Khairy

(The Malaysian Insider) – Not one slap. Not two slaps. But three slaps.

That was what Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin received at 3.15 pm when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak announced the line-up of ministers and deputy ministers.

First the announcement confirmed what the grapevine has been saying for days: Khairy had been frozen out. Then the double whammy, news that Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who polled third in the Umno Youth contest, was appointed deputy minister in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

Then, the third blow, news that Datuk Razali Ibrahim, Khairy’s deputy in Umno Youth, was appointed deputy minister of Youth and Sports. For Khairy’s supporters, today’s announcement confirms two facts: that there is an attempt to send him into political oblivion and that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad exerted considerable influence in the composition of the Cabinet.

Even since Khairy defeated his son (some say the former prime minister took the defeat personally because it was almost as if Khairy defeated him) in the Umno polls, Dr Mahathir has been pushing for the omission of Abdullah’s son-in-law from the Cabinet.

His rationale: since Khairy was warned for money politics by the Umno disciplinary board, he was a corrupt politician. His inclusion in the Najib administration would infect the whole government.

The Najib camp worried about making an enemy of Dr Mahathir agreed with his reasoning, noting that they could not carry someone with baggage. But Khairy’s supporters in Umno Youth found this argument curious because many of the members of the administration are carrying some baggage, including the PM.

Also, they pointed out that double standards appear to be at play here.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ali Rustam was allowed to keep his position as chief executive of the state despite being found guilty of money politics and barred from contesting the party polls.

“This is a move to sideline Khairy and hope that his political career ends, ‘’ said a senior Umno youth official, who noted that any Umno office bearer without any government position is automatically disadvantaged because the person will not have a platform to travel around the country, logistical support or the ability to dish out patronage.

Dr Mahathir has had a major beef with Khairy since identifying him as the power behind Abdullah and the one person who influenced him to undo some of the former prime minister’s pet policies and projects. After successfully forcing Abdullah to cut short his two-year transition plan, he turned his sights on Khairy.

He appears well on the way to ending the political career of the youth chief and ensuring that at least someone from his blood line stays politically relevant. Yesterday, Dr Mahathir denied that he lobbied Najib to appoint Mukhriz as a deputy minister, saying that he had never campaigned for any of his sons.

The general view from the party is that his cajoling from the sidelines had a significant impact on Najib — it prompted him to keep Khairy in cold storage and put Mukhriz on the main stage. For the PM the choice was clear cut: appease the former prime minister or make an enemy out of him.