So, who really won in Johor, Umno or Istana?

An Umno leader from Johor Baru told a journalist that if this goes through, then “we might as well wrap up all the Johor seats in a box and deliver it to Pakatan Harapan in the next general election.”

By Joceline Tan, The Star

THE golden moment for Barisan Nasional has suddenly turned sour with poster boy Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad suddenly withdrawing from the Mentri Besar post.

Political circles in Johor were abuzz with speculation that Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi, 43, is likely to be the next Mentri Besar of Johor.

The shocking turn of events is still unfolding and the only confirmation that Hasni is out of the picture came from his press statement issued at about 7pm.

There had been absolute silence from the Barisan leadership which is said to be huddled in the conference at Saujana, the official residence of the Mentri Besar.

It is a political crisis for the coalition which won the Johor election with a supermajority of 40 seats.

Hasni’s moderate and appealing image has gone down so well with the average Johor voter.

The development will be seen by the voters as a betrayal.

Besides, Barisan had run a campaign promising political stability.

All important political events in Johor often lead back to the Johor Palace and it is apparent that the palace has other ideas about who should lead the state government.

The first sign that something had gone badly wrong was when Barisan chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Hasan returned to the Umno headquarters from their audience at the palace at about 4pm, looking grim-faced.

The pair immediately went up to the second floor and about half an hour later, they came down with Hasni.

“It was evident that something had gone wrong. They walked past all of us, ignoring our questions, and drove off in their cars,” said a Johor Baru-based journalist.

An Umno official told the media “to pray”.

By then, rumours were swirling that the palace wanted someone else as Mentri Besar.

The Johor palace is ultra-powerful and political crises involving the party’s choice of Mentri Besar are not new.

But for this to erupt just a day after a tremendous win was simply mind-boggling.

It is understood that key Johor figures like Tan Sri Shahrir Samad and vice-president Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin have been summoned back to Johor to seek a way out of the crisis.

But is it possible to find a way out once the palace has decided?

Sources said Hasni was made aware of the possible change a day earlier after a key Johor leader called on him at his official residence.

A staff member at Saujana saw his family looking downcast and almost in tears after the visitor left.

It is terribly awkward for Machap assemblyman Onn Hafiz if it is true that he is slated for the top job.

Onn Hafiz, known as OH to his friends, is the nephew of Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and grandson of Tun Hussein Onn.

It is widely known that Onn Hafiz is close to the Johor Crown Prince. The pair got along well during Onn Hafiz’s stint as a state exco member for the youth and sports portfolio.

Malay culture, said an aide to a minister, is about being respectful and what happened will not be good for Onn Hafiz.

Regardless of whether he has lobbied for the job or not, he will be seen as the one holding the knife.

Besides, he grew up in Penang where his father was a prominent lawyer, has hardly any administrative experience and it is no fun to be seen as a usurper.

As it is, he was seen as running from his original seat in Layang Layang to Machap so as to avoid facing PKR big-name, Datuk Dr Maszlee Malik.

An Umno leader from Johor Baru told a journalist that if this goes through, then “we might as well wrap up all the Johor seats in a box and deliver it to Pakatan Harapan in the next general election.”

The Johor win was supposed to be a cause for celebration at the Umno general assembly starting on Wednesday (March 16).

Umno delegates were all hyped up to hail Hasni as their hero for delivering Johor.

How will the delegates receive the alternative to Hasni?

Can the Barisan leadership sort out the crisis before they convene for the general assembly?