Sanusi's cloak of invincibility and PH to reap what they sow

17 Jul 2023 05:36pm
Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor's (pic) style is brazenly combative; more like the aggressor from the kampong who won’t back away from a fight. - Photo by Bernama
Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor's (pic) style is brazenly combative; more like the aggressor from the kampong who won’t back away from a fight. - Photo by Bernama

SHAH ALAM - For a state known only as the nation’s rice bowl, the quaint Kedah is becoming increasingly lively these days.

Two days ago, its capital, Alor Setar, played host to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.

Yes. You heard that right. Three senior ministers; each of whom are the respective presidents of PKR, Umno and Amanah.

Speaking to hundreds of padi farmers and fishermen, Anwar naturally talked politics, with the crux of his speech centered on economic empowerment of padi farmers through the ‘five-seasons-two-years’ padi farming programme.

“Give us a chance to introduce a method to increase your yield, hence your income,” Anwar implored at the Sentuhan Madani event.

Padi farming is a huge deal here in Kedah -- where a third of Malaysia’s rice is produced. It is also a very political crop given the state’s century-long agrarian roots and way of life.

And for Anwar to dangle means for a quintuple harvest within two years as opposed to the current twice a year -- without explaining how such method would affect the soil bearing capacity of the granary area -- was no doubt, a tempting offer.

There was no catch mentioned but everything comes with a price tag and while none of sorts were ever spoken by Anwar, the looming Aug 12 state polls was enough to drive home the point.

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Six states will be up for contest and in Kedah, the tag team of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN) is expected to face a fierce battle with Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Fierce, in the sense that despite PH-BN’s rule over Putrajaya, the odds seemed stacked against them as PN’s palpable strong grip on Kedah, all thanks to the meteoric rise in popularity of caretaker Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor.

Sanusi has been phenomenal of late; making waves and dominating headlines over the past few weeks with his eyebrow-raising firebrand antics and head-turning statements which earned him not just jeers but cheers as well.

And for a man whose stint in electoral representation officially began with his victory in the 2018 General Election -- when he won the Jeneri state seat by 2,455 majority -- Sanusi’s rise to fame was rather remarkable.

While pundits attributed Sanusi’s political stardom, especially among Kedahans, to his frequent capitalisation on the politics of 3R -- race, religion and royal institution; the more astute observers would beg to differ.

On the outset, Sanusi is frank; at times too outspoken.

His style is brazenly combative; more like the aggressor from the kampong who won’t back away from a fight. A reckless slugger who would throw caution to the wind and unnecessarily jump head first into a Twitter feud with a member of the royalty.

That being said, for some reasons, these bold qualities -- which made him an outlier who deviated from the usual composed, well-groomed and religious persona of most Pas leaders -- resonated well among many Kedahans.

Ah. How odd.

Perhaps Kedahans find Sanusi’s bearish outspokeness a refreshing change of pace from their previous MBs who are notoriously known for being ‘lembut gigi daripada lidah’ (to have teeths softer than tongues).

Perhaps, they find him more relatable in spite of his flaws. Perhaps, the political lethargy has rendered decorum and propriety synonymous with uppityness and that Sanusi’s lack thereof implies honesty, at least to a certain degree.

Could it be that a perfectly-cut-gem is no longer trendy? Do the masses now prefer a diamond in the rough? Who knows, but the signs are indeed telling.

As it is, Sanusi seemed to be draped in a proverbial cloak of political invincibility

Even more so, following the podcast that he did with ousted former Umno youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and former Umno youth vice-chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan where he deftly distilled and explained complex key issues relating to Kedah.

And to many politically savvy Malaysians in the social media, the podcast was eye-opening. It unveiled another side of Sanusi which they would not have been able to see had they merely and solely relied on news reports by the media.

They also saw how passionate Sanusi was in his struggle to turn the mothballed Kulim Airport into a reality -- an endeavour that would bring much needed economic boon to the eastern part of Kedah many of which have yet to see prosperity comparable to its western counterpart.

However, his brash demanour has also landed him in hot waters. A case in point, would be his controversial jab against Selangor MB Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari which led to a slip-of-tongue implicating the Sultan of Selangor.

And boy did PH jump onto the bandwagon.

But here’s the thing, will attacking Sanusi right now win PH more votes? Or will it only make him stronger? The reality seemed to suggest the latter. Why such is so is anybody’s guess but it is what it is.

Also, Sanusi's political prowess was partly PH’s fault as well. The coalition has for three years -- since he became MB on May 17, 2020 -- ignored Sanusi’s growing clout in Kedah; they have failed to properly groom anyone from within the state to be his rival.

And even on top of the wipeout that PH had experienced at Kedah in last year’s 15th General Election (GE15) where it won only a single parliamentary seat -- Sungai Petani; there was hardly anyone from Kedah PH who acted as a spoiler to keep Sanusi in check.

Instead, what happened was that Anwar was often seen as PH’s go-to person to politically duke things out with Sanusi. So, is Sanusi so powerful to the point that PH needed their numero-uno to handle him?

The harvest season in Kedah is due in roughly two more months from now -- well beyond the August polls -- but PH on the other hand, will likely learn what it means to reap what has been sown in just three more weeks.