Umno divisions are getting heated, as they hold their meetings to gear up for the main Umno general assembly, which is usually held early December.
This time, the theme seems to be the looming, and yet undecided, General Election and holding on to power.
While those still in Umno and their leaders talk about how they will do all they can to ensure Umno stays the main ruling party of Malaysia, a group of former Umno members led by the former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in new political party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) are planning an attack, together with the opposition.
As much as the Umno media and leaders declare publicly that they are not bothered about these former Umno leaders who are attacking them from outside, inside the party and at the division leader and top levels, it is a different buzz altogether, for there is fear and worry that there will be leaks by the gunshots from the opposition which may just sink the Umno ship altogether.
Some of the leaders have mentioned their fears openly and brazenly. Even the Prime Minister and Umno President Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself have addressed them many times, indicating that he has them at the back of his mind.
As a matter of fact, it seems that the main worry of Umno today seems to be not the opposition per se, but the ones who have left and followed Mahathir, including former Deputy PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and former Kedah MB and Mahathir’s son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz.
It is not the present power of Mahathir that the Umno-ites are actually worried about, but the ones whom Mahathir had fed and nurtured who are still loyal to Umno. For even when the son has broken away from the parent, there is always the bond which may be triggered. And he ruled with an iron grip for 22 years – a long period enough to have raised many then young Umno members to have a place as leaders in Umno of today.
Those who are saying that Mahathir is passe, may not know how Mahathir had changed the way Umno works during his time. He made sure that everyone has a share in the fruits of the party – making all the top leaders indebted to the party and him, and whoever crossed his lines did not stay long enough. Thus, there was a culture he created, which was continued by his successors.
Now, he may be a man wanting vengeance to get the PM down for what he says is an abuse of people’s trust and he may not be in the party, but he knows very well how the party works and the mentality of the Umno people.
And those in Umno who climbed the ranks during Mahathir’s time and who are still there too knows Mahathir will win or die fighting and they would have to pick his brains to outwit him, something that none of his successors has yet been able to do.
The best that his successors and Najib has been able to do to keep Mahathir and his followers at bay is to ignore him and cut him off from publicity.
Even then, Mahathir has gone overboard and joined hands with the opposition – despite the opposition having suffered most in the history of Malaysia under his time.
Umno used to fear PAS, for PAS had that broad base at its grassroots and its followers were similar to Umno members – except that PAS had the upper hand of followers mixing divine and political powers.
Yet, Umno had the strength as it was richer as the main ruling party and able to dispense to bait votes, which worked with Malays in the urban outskirts and rural areas, except in the east coast.
Today, however, PAS had been broken into as Najib has managed to ‘make friends’ with PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, in the name of Malay and Muslim unity. Hadi has been so smitten that he has even ‘divorced’ his fellow opposition.
The other opposition parties are still bickering internally and with each other, and are not as strong as before as its main glue Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is still in prison.
Thus, the only one to shake up Umno would be Mahathir and his followers, and the main fear of Umno this time round would be if there are Umno members still inside Umno but their hearts with Mahathir.
One can only wait to see what happens at the Umno division meetings and then the next Umno General Assembly to gauge if Umno is truly united behind their current crop of leaders, or whether Umno will be merely shaken but not stirred by Mahathir.