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Monday, November 4, 2013

Barisan touts development agenda

Publication: NSUNT
Date of publication: Nov 3, 2013
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 010
Byline / Author: By Ahmad Faizuz Othman

THE call from both sides of the political divide to have a clean campaign for the Sungai Limau by-election has fallen on deaf ears, particularly on the part of the opposition.

It was quite promising at the start with leaders of Barisan Nasional and Pas being seemingly friendly with each other on nomination day on Oct 23.

But the northerner's brand of friendliness, or "hemoih", has evaporated as the 12 days of campaigning draw to a close.

With the stakes being high, Pas has pulled out all stops as campaigning went into the final lap in this state constituency, which has been its stronghold for the last five terms.

The BN, fielding former lecturer, Dr Ahmad Sohaimi Lazim, has, however, managed to stick to its campaign strategy of promising development to the sleepy hollow of Sungai Limau.

Under its "Dare to Change" motto, BN's local and national leaders have gone to the ground to meet voters, even in "black areas", where most voters are known to be sympathetic towards Pas.

Despite the odds stacked against them, BN has forged ahead with its push for development.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is BN's by-election director, made the coalition's intention clear from the get-go.

Prior to the campaign, he said that BN wanted to bring development to Sungai Limau, as the constituency is lagging behind in terms of progress as compared with other rapidly-developing parts of Kedah.

Muhyiddin is expected to make his final "assault" to tip the scales in BN's favour today when he meets the people of Sungai Limau Dalam to launch its first Pasar Tani, before speaking to the BN election workers later.

In the course of 12 days, he has met farmers, fishermen, civil servants, religious school teachers and students in the Pas stronghold of Bukit Choras.

Members of BN Wanita and Puteri wings have been criss-crossing the villages on foot and in vans, while their male counterparts in the Youth movement held sporting activities to attract the younger generation.

The women have perhaps faced the most obstacles, having been confronted with two cases of harassment during their campaign to win the hearts of the people of Sungai Limau, including the 27,222 registered voters.

But even with the pressure against them, BN can still spring a surprise if the voters could see beyond the dirty politics that have been coming from the opposition's side.

It was obvious from the start that Pas, which is fielding Jerai Pas Youth head Mohd Azam Abd Samat, had waited for the tabling of the 2014 Budget on Oct 25 to find ammunition for its campaign.

The opposition and its allies had been hoping to do so after other national issues brought up during their ceramah failed to make much impact.

This, however, did not materialise as points in the budget they were hoping to exploit, including the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST), fell flat on the voters.

It was then that the unsavoury tactics unfolded when a pro-opposition news portal highlighted a throwaway part in Muhyiddin's speech at SMK Sungai Limau.

Pas jumped at the opportunity and exploited the late Tan Sri Azizan Abdul Razak.

Despite Muhyiddin's humble apology to Azizan's family and their gracious acceptance, the drama surrounding the issue did not stop.

It touched the nerves of many yesterday when the bottom half of a mannequin with only one leg was seen dangling from a power line in Simpang Tiga Sungai Daun, clearly a reference to Azizan's condition prior to his death.

Pas had earlier suffered a severe blow when Malay tabloid Sinar Harian pointed out that the party had used a doctored photograph of its reporters with Azizan, in one of its campaign flyers, to imply that the much respected late menteri besar had "endorsed" its candidate.

State opposition leader Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah admitted to the mistake but blamed it on the outside designer they had engaged.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's late entry into the campaign on Friday, with talk about theGST, barely created any ripples outside of his ceramah.

But it was DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang's statement in Pekan Sungai Limau Dalam yesterday, in which he described former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as a bad influence to the country, that really took the cake.

It reeked of desperation, but desperation is something voters can see right through.

Pas may still hold the advantage at the polls tomorrow, but BN springing a surprise could not be ruled out either.

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