Ever since the 1990 general election, Barisan Nasional (BN) has been gunning for a return to Kelantan which it lost to opposition PAS. It will be no different in the next election.
Little wonder, then, that BN leaders in the east coast state are feeling the pressure even before the election date is announced - and no one more so than Kelantan Umno liaison head Annuar Musa, whom some in the party deem to be a ‘liability’.
He acknowledged as much when met in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday, and was asked to comment on the perception that Umno will find it difficult to take back Kelantan because his leadership is no longer wanted by the people.
"If people claim that I have become a liability I accept it, but all politicians are a liability," said the veteran politician, who was once a minister - of youth and sports, and then rural development - and is now Opposition Leader in the Kelantan legislative assembly.
"In 2004, people said I was a liability but I won the Kok Lanas state seat with a majority of 2,846 votes, one of the biggest margins in Kelantan. The opposition leaders can talk, but I will continue doing my job."
Asked to for his definition of ‘clean’ politicians, he snapped: "Who’s clean? Are Pak Lah, Nik Aziz, Anwar Ibrahim, Husam Musa or Samy Vellu clean? In Umno’s eyes, Nik Aziz is also not clean."
Kelantan has been in PAS hands since it won all 39 state seats up for grabs in 1990, mainly due to bickering in the Umno leadership.
The BN’s fortunes have fluctuated ever since in the state. In 1995, it won seven state and two parliamentary seats, but this was whittled down to two state seats and one parliamentary seat in 1999.
In 2004, however, BN swept into 21 of the 45 state seats and took eight of the 14 parliamentary seats. Winning the Pengkalan Pasir state seat in a 2005 by-election has given it 22 seats, against 23 held by PAS.
‘Approval rating up’
Annuar who is also the Kelantan BN chairperson, also claimed that Kelantanese approval of him has risen over the last 17 years.
"In 1991, people would boo me whenever I entered the stadium (for example), but not any more. When I entered a coffee shop, people would walk out. Now people offer to pay for my drinks," he said.
There is speculation that, in the next polls, Annuar may contest in the Ketereh parliamentary seat, which is held by state Umno information chief Alwi Che Mat (photo).
The BN-led federal government has been leaving nothing to chance, meanwhile, in winning back hearts and minds in Kelantan.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi recently launched a RM112 billion development plan - the East Coast Economic Corridor project.
This was the third in a series of development master-plans rolled out around the country, both to promote economic growth and to ensure that voters and those in business circles ‘feel good’ ahead of the polls.