Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak looked confident and high spirit on the night of April 6 when he launched the Barisan Nasional (BN) manifesto.
He was flanked by all leaders of the parties in the coalition witnessed by more 50,000 BN members and supporters.
To Najib, that Saturday night was the highlight of what he has done the past four years as Prime Minister, fulfilling the promises made in 2008 general election.
That was the height of the transformations programmes he had taken since he took over the Prime Ministership from then Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in April, 2009.
That was his final countdown – things he has been doing since the four years as Prime Minister and Umno president, things he plans to do and things he listed for the future of the people and nation.
It was exactly like presenting his report card for everybody to peruse and make judgement.
Najib was pushed up to the president’s post by angry Umno delegates following the dismal performance of BN in the 2008 general election, the party was at its lowest ebb.
Its coalition partners MCA, MIC, Gerakan and others in the Peninsular were considered as ‘badly injured with some waiting for death’ while parties in Sabah and Sarawak were still stable despite being ‘bashed’.
It was not easy and neither was it smooth sailing as the ruling BN was reeling from the dismal performance as well as the shocked that came with it.
Even though BN did not lose but reduced majority is bad enough for a coalition party that has ruled the country since Independence with two-thirds majority all along, the feeling of being ‘abandoned’ and ‘not appreciated’.
Understanding the core problem of BN – aloof and detached from the ground – Najib began first with his Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), a programme that enhance and expand the economic sector where merit is the criteria.
Najib came under fire from Malay business associations as he introduced the New Economic Model (NEM) that seemingly sidelining the Malays and Malay businesses which needed much help from the government.
Najib was, at that time, seen as not an Umno president who is supposedly to protect interest of the Malays but more of a Malaysian which worries Umno members and Malays at large.
Worse news for the Malays who have been enjoying APs of imported cars at that time was Najib’s announcement that such ‘gifts’ would be stopped by 2015.
While most Malays welcomed the news, APs holders which number few hundreds were jittery as their ‘free income that amounted to millions a year’ would be lost in few years’ time.
Noisiest among the Malay NGOs at that time was Perkasa, a Malay NGO that attracted many Umno leaders and members as it champions the malay cause and Islam.
Led by rebel-rouser and former Umno member Ibrahim Ali, Perkasa was seen as the savior for the Malays as Umno began to become more neutralized and shedding away its Malay-ultra image.
Najib managed to cool things down with his explanation and then introduced Political Transformation Programme (PTP) followed by Government Transformation Programme (GTP).
He then travelled the country explaining in detail all his programmes which began to make the people understand what his plans were and how these plans would be implemented.
Najib was actually selling himself for the sake of BN because at that time no one can market BN to the people anymore, even Umno members, the staunchest of members of any party, did not have much confidence.
Najib was all alone, walking the streets and having teh tarik with the masses, while listening to the people’s needs and wishes, experiencing life on the street, trying to win back lost ‘love and trust’.
During this time, Malaysians at large and Umno members termed Najib as the ‘Obama of Malaysia’ as they see him campaigning as though Malaysians would be voting for an individual, not a party.
With the ruling BN at its lowest ebb, Najib was left with no choice but to give the coalition a new image while leaders of the other parties in the coalition were ‘shy and shameful’ to ‘lift their heads up for fear of being shot by the oppositions.’
And Najib was under heavy ‘shelling’ from the oppositions – openly in the oppositions’ print media and in cyber with oppositions’ bloggers having a field day exposing make-believe stories.
Undettered, Najib walked forward and began engaging the youngsters – since the young voters comprise come 3 million-odd – in cyber through facebook, twitter and sms and other mode that youngsters love using in this modern era.
Approaching the voters in a methodical manner and according to categories, Najib finally reached the core – the Chinese community – now considered as the king-maker that determines the numbers.
Najib began ‘loosening up’ to the demands of the community with getting the government to recognize TAR college diplomas and degrees, giving more financial aid to Chinese schools as acknowledging the importance of Chinese education seems to be the core grievance of the community.
Feeling confident that everything has been done to win back the minds and hearts of the people, and after four years of hard work and being ridiculed and shamed and attacked, on April 6 Najib presented his report card.
And that night, none of the leaders of the parties in the coalition felt shy and scared as they stood beside Najib with confidence yelling out the ‘way cry’.
It is now up to the people to peruse and judge – against the backdrop of heightened racial and religious issues raised by the oppositions with Najib’s methodical approach.
And even the ‘shy’ leaders of other parties in the coalition have woken up to lend support, brave to counter allegations and conduct attacks but have they got enough time to win back the hearts and minds of lost support?