Q&A: Extraordinary challenges in Bukit Selambau

Humility and a strong persona are not easily reconciled, but Barisan Nasional candidate S Ganesan reckons he has both - and that it will bag him the Bukit Selambau state seat on April 7.

In an interview with Malaysiakini, he talks about his campaign and plans for the constituency, as well as the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). These comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Malaysiakini: There are so many Indian candidates, will it split the Indian vote?

S Ganesan: There might be friends voting for friends, but the rest need a strong candidate

(BN has) to really work hard as this seat was captured by PKR in the last election. Now we are the opposition party in this state, therefore it is an uphill task for us... since I have been selected as the candidate I have to really work hard to achieve success.

bukit selambau s ganesan jogging campaign 300309 02(It is a tough campaign because) people today are very open. They analyse all the angles, so we have to fulfil their requests and demands. So we have to approach (the job) in a professional manner.

In Bukit Selambau, there are 35,000 voters from the low-income group. The challenges here are extraordinary, especially with the (onset of the) economy slowdown. A lot of them are factory workers in Taman Ria Jaya and the (factories) are mainly in the small- and medium-scale industries.

If anything happens, and especially if their working hours are reduced, then obviously their income will be affected. If their income is reduced, they will have to work really hard to sustain a livelihood.

(This will cause them to become) very critical and very vocal, and that will be reflected in the election results. I have to be a candidate who can tackle (such) problems (in the urban areas of the constituency) .

In the rural areas, we have to take care of basic needs - proper shelter, water and electricity supply, good roads, and education for their children. We have to show them that we have a very strong government and that we are united because of our vision to eradicate poverty by 2020.

So the Independents are not strong enough to cause a problem?

Voters know that an Independent won't be able to do anything even if he wins because the demands here are extraordinary. People will come after them for resources and money, but how are they going to (meet these demands)?

What about Malay voters since they can choose from Malay Independents?

bn poster for by election 250309 ganesanVoters today don't (subscribe to the notion) that Malays have to vote for a Malay...it boils down to who will make a good wakil rakyat.

So if they feel I am a good person and will deliver, they will support me. I have to approach them individually to tell them my background - where I come from, how I’ve improved myself through hard work and sacrifice...

I was born here and have lived in four estates. I studied in Tamil schools in the estates... lots of my classmates from primary and secondary school are still here and they are my friends.

I’ve been a lawyer for 15 years and have helped lots of people. I am also a sportsman who is quite actively involved in football, badminton and golf.

What is your perception of MIC president S Samy Vellu, since people say he is irrelevant?

I don't think (he is irrelevant). I think he is doing his duty. As (party) president, he has a duty to make sure (his nominee) wins.

He has been here for 22 days now and I see that people are receiving him well and that their response is good.

Is victory here crucial for the MIC to regain goodwill and its reputation, after losing to an Independent in 2008?

Of the 19 state seats we contested (in the general election of March 2008), we lost 12 and only won seven seats.

This by-election gives us a chance...It is a test for MIC and BN. The party is very prepared and committed. It looks like this time we are really ready.

What is your opinion of the impact of Makkal Sakthi (people power) and Hindraf? Are they still strong here?

p uthayakumarm manoharan 02No. (Some of the leaders) studied with me - when I was deputy president of the MIC London club, (P) Uthayakumar (left) was my secretary. M Manoharan (right) and I also studied in Universiti Malaya.

Many of them are my friends. (They have taken up) their struggle in a different way... mine is through the government. Being my friends, I don't think they will do anything to harm (my campaign). They know I am genuine and will do my job... some are my clients and I don't think they will openly do anything against me.

You say their way is different, but there are still many Indians who think that the BN has denied them their rights...

In the last election, people were carried away with Hindraf and makkal sakthi, but this has slowed down. With me being a candidate, they feel I too can fight for their rights. I am (not) contesting ..for my pride or for glamour... I know it is a very heavy responsibility to shoulder.

The people of Bukit Selambau need a leader who can defend them, a leader who speaks for them, a leader who can fight for them.

Obviously, (Hindraf has) a different ideology - even I have a different ideology. This is a democratic country. Every five years, you will face an election, you are answerable to the people. If you don't deliver, they will knock you out.

There is talk that Indians are deserting PKR. Will this help BN win?

It’s very good. It shows that many of them are not confident of PKR, so they will reject PKR and vote for BN.

Why were you chosen as candidate? As part of MIC’s re-branding exercise, the party should be looking at someone young and fresh, right?

I am a product of one of the re-branding activities.. . don't I like look young?

How can MIC become relevant again to Indians?

With people like me.... I am the Obama of Malaysia. I am a self-made man and a role model for so many people. I grew up in an estate and was brought up in a poor family. There were times when we even had to struggle for one day’s meal.

My motto is ‘be humble and be simple’. Look at everybody as a friend and do what you can to help them ... be the (source of) motivation for the community.

What do you have to say about the New Economic Policy?

It has been a good policy for eradication of poverty, regardless of race.

Many people fail to (see) that our country runs on a democratic capitalist system. In this system, the clever will become cleverer, the rich will become richer, the lazy will become lazier and the poor will become poorer.

bukit selambau by-election bn candidate 140309 ganesan and bn leadersThe government has, despite the priority allocated to the Malay community, provided free education to all. Therefore, other communities should use it for their upliftment.

You have to be hard-working and you have to be approachable, humble, simple and pleasant - these are the qualities required to survive in a capitalist (economy).

Also be smart. Who is telling you not to be smart? When opportunity knocks, grab it... if you don't, then it is your own fault. The country is not telling you that you cannot accumulate wealth. If you work smart you can earn, and the opportunities (for this)
will come.”

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