KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 - Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has gone for the jugular, pressing the Umno delegates and incoming Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to freeze Khairy Jamaluddin out of the party and government.
This move by the former prime minister is the latest verbal volley against the son-in-law of his nemesis, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and appears to be a final push to improve Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir's chances of being elected as the Umno Youth chief on Thursday.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the battle for the youth wing is turning out to be a fight between Khairy and Datuk Dr Khir Toyo, with Mukhriz trailing some way behind.Though no longer an Umno member, Dr Mahathir carries considerable influence in the party and has been commenting on trend of money politics in Umno and the ineffectiveness of the party's disciplinary board to censure the culprits.
In his latest blog posting, he slammed the disciplinary tribunal for missing out on a great opportunity to bar candidates who had used money to buy votes.
"If they had done so, this would have improved the image of the party and there is a good chance that the party would win in the next general elections. But because tribunal has allowed candidates said to be corrupt to contest, there is a good chance that they will be elected to the
Supreme Council, '' he said.
He said that only Najib could save the party.
"When Dato Seri Najib forms the new government, he can reject these leaders and do not give them any positions in the Cabinet or government. I believe Dato Seri Abdullah will force Najib to pick certain individuals as Cabinet ministers.
"We of course know about the desire of someone to become the youngest Prime Minister. The fact is that even if he wins, his involvement in the government will cause voters to reject Barisan Nasional in the next general elections. If Dato Seri Najib picks the corrupt and certain people in his Cabinet, Umno will be destroyed, '' said Dr Mahathir, who believes that Khairy was the power behind the throne and person who influenced Abdullah to chart his own style of administration and undermine the former prime minister's legacy.
Ground reports suggest that either Khir Toyo or Khairy will emerge victorious on Thursday. Khir Toyo was cleared of graft by the disciplinary board while Khairy was warned but allowed to contest.
This latest posting by Dr Mahathir is a gentle reminder to Najib that the latter's choices for the Cabinet will have to be "endorsed'' and "sanctioned'' by the former prime minister.
Otherwise, Najib can expect to be criticized from the sidelines.
Dr Mahathir, who quit Umno in protest against Abdullah's leadership, is expected to attend the party's general assembly as an observer. He is also likely to be given an unofficial role in the new administration.