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KUALA LUMPUR: The nomination of DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang as the Gelang Patah candidate for the upcoming general election is a tell-tale sign that the opposition will be descending upon Johor with all guns blazing.
And with the veteran politician leading the assault on the Barisan Nasional stronghold, one would find it logical if the ruling government fields a candidate of good political standing to face this challenge head on.
The one person who is able to fill these shoes, it seems, is none other than MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
The doctor, who hails from Johor, can be regarded as a formidable opponent who will be able stop the DAP from making inroads into what is touted to be the impenetrable BN bastion.
One primary reason why Chua stands a good chance against Lim is the high level of support he receives from the Chinese community since 1990, when he first entered politics.
He enjoys immense popularity in the state, particularly in the town of Batu Pahat where he was born and bred.
The medical officer had served at the Batu Pahat hospital and later opened a clinic there, before building up his political base in the town.
Chua was first elected as a state assemblyman for Penggaram, Johor on MCA’s ticket in 1986. He continued to serve Penggaram for 18 years through four consecutive state elections.
Penggaram is one of the three state seats under the Batu Pahat parliamentary constituency, where he has garnered an over 10,000-vote majority in all his four electoral victories in Penggaram.
Lim, meanwhile, was also born in Batu Pahat but had moved to Malacca where it is regarded to be his home state. However, it would be wrong to assume that he does not have half a chance to wrest the Gelang Patah seat from MCA.
Although Johor is traditionally a BN fortress since the 1955 Federal Legislative Council election, the DAP had on various occasions won in several Chinese-dominated state and parliamentary seats there.
It is apparent, therefore, that the DAP has plans to contest in urban areas where the presence of the Chinese is strong, just like it did in the 2008 general election when it delivered a knock-out blow to Gerakan in Penang.
Even Chua had commented that Lim was only contesting in Gelang Patah as it was a Chinese-dominated suburb.
“Lim only contests in Chinese-majority areas while hailing the party as being multi-racial. Furthermore, what’s his contribution to the constituency? I would say zero.
“He has been the MP for Ipoh Timur for two terms. What has he done? I think the constituents do not even get to see him in person, only on posters, in newspapers and over the television,” he reportedly said.
Currently held by MCA’s Tan Ah Eng, the Gelang Patah constituency comprises mostly Chinese voters (54 per cent) while the Malays and Indians form 33 per cent and 12 per cent respectively of the remaining voters.
In 2008, Tan polled 33,630 ballots against PKR’s Zaliha Mustafa, who received 24,779 votes.
Gelang Patah also caught public attention recently when Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim revealed that this parliamentary constituency had been categorised as a ‘black seat’ for BN.
Based on this alone, the idea of Chua contesting in Gelang Patah, which is only a stone’s throw away from his hometown, is nothing less than titillating.
If he does choose to do battle with Lim there, Malaysians will witness the first clash of the Chinese Titans after 21 years.
In 1982, the MCA president then, Tan Sri Lee San Choon, contested in Seremban against the then DAP chairman, Dr Chen Man Hin.
The battle royal between the two Chinese juggernauts of yesteryear ended with Lee coming out on top despite being looked upon as the underdog at the time.
If Chua retraces his predecessor’s steps and engages in a do-or-die battle with Lim, he will not only be given a chance to repeat history, but more importantly prove once and for all the MCA is still the party to represent the Chinese community.
MCA grassroots members had also opined that should their president contest in Gelang Patah, it would help invigorate the party’s election machinery.
China Press recently quoted Pasir Gudang MCA division chief Tan Cher Puk as saying that the party’s morale would be boosted nationwide if Chua took up the challenge.
“So far nobody knows whether the president will contest in the coming general election or not. The MCA (members) in some areas are experiencing low morale,” he reportedly said.
The Johor Jaya assemblyperson had said a battle between the two leaders in Gelang Patah would dispel the perception that MCA did not dare to challenge dangerous constituencies or those contested by strong opponents.