SUNGAI PETANI, – In the absence of larger issues, the battle in Bukit Selambau has turned into a fight over seemingly minor points: is the PKR candidate a puppet?
“I am not a puppet to anyone. I have my own dignity and will serve according to the party’s struggle,” S. Manikumar said in answer to claims by various parties, including disgruntled former PKR division leaders, as talk of an internal revolt by PKR Kedah’s Indian members continue to swirl.
The talk is that he is either being controlled by Pas, the current PKR Kedah leadership, or an important business tycoon close to de facto PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“I am not related to him whatsoever. My only contact with him was in the general elections when I helped in his campaign,” he explained.
The 35-year-old businessman also insisted that it was a fair interview process and he was probably chosen due to his academic and business qualifications, as well as his fluency in spoken Malay.
“It is all in self-interest and they have definite personal agendas. If not, why did they quit the party?” he reasoned.
This was echoed by PKR supreme council member Xavier Jeyakumar who has been camped out here and appears to be acting as Manikumar’s political advisor.
“Why now? Why choose the by-election period?” he questioned and added that “maybe they are disappointed with the candidate but I am not.”
He also wished Umno “good luck with Kalaivanar,” referring to B. Kalaivanar, the Jerai division chief who claimed to have led 356 members of his division out of the party yesterday.
Acknowledging that he has been a “passive member” in his two years as a member so far, Manikumar however insisted that now that he has been given the mandate by the party, members should back him to ensure PKR retains the seat.
“I have been receiving comments and criticism such as that I am not creative in my campaigning and I am willing to rectify my weaknesses,” said Manikumar who is regarded as a political novice.
In his campaign, Manikumar has been pushing the agenda of human development, pointing out that no matter how much infrastructure development Barisan Nasional promised, it meant nothing without the fundamental capacity-building for citizens.
“What point is an RM50 billion development if people are not developed?” he said.
He has however been distancing himself from being looked upon as merely a candidate to woo the 30 per cent Indian electorate here.
His message to voters has been to consider him a candidate for all races. Election chief for Pakatan Rakyat, Datuk Johari Abdul, has been making tongue-in-cheek comments during on-ground visits to the effect that Manikumar “sounds like a Malay, brought up as an Indian and has a business mind of a Chinese.”