PUTRAJAYA: Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy today expressed confidence that the movement could mobilise Malaysian Indians to back Pakatan Harapan (PH) at the next polls, following a discussion today with the coalition’s chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Speaking to FMT, Waytha said Hindraf’s role was critical in delivering the Indian votes to PH, adding that they would be the kingmakers to sway the outcome against Barisan Nasional (BN) in marginal seats.
“And we are offering to help PH in these rural seats, where the Indian community can make a significant difference,” he said.
Waytha said Hindraf’s immense support among ordinary Indians would also work in PH’s favour should the coalition accept the group as its fifth partner.
He said this was among the contents of his discussion with Mahathir in a meeting which was also attended by two former ministers, Zaid Ibrahim and Sanusi Junid.
The hour-long meeting took place in the former prime minister’s office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation here.
“I’m here to speak to Tun (Mahathir) and convince him of how we can help bring about change in the next election,” Waytha told FMT.
He said in remote Malay parliamentary constituencies where Umno candidates had won marginally in the last polls, the number of Indian voters “are probably about five to six times more than the majority”.
“We are talking about Kedah, Johor, Perak and Selangor,” said Waytha, who quit the Cabinet in 2014, less than a year after he was appointed a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department as part of an electoral understanding between Hindraf and BN.
Waytha cited the Merbok parliament seat in Kedah, where BN defeated PKR by 4,122 votes in the 2013 general election.
“But there are about 15,000 Indian voters there,” he said. “So I believe we can go to these areas and convince the Indian voters to support PH.”
Hindraf came into prominence in 2007 after tens of thousands of Indians took part in a protest it organised in Kuala Lumpur, accusing the government of marginalising Malaysian Indians.
The group was widely credited for opposition gains in the general election a year later, when BN candidates were defeated in constituencies with a large concentration of Indian voters.
However, Hindraf shifted its support to BN just before the 2013 polls, following a memorandum of understanding signed with the ruling coalition promising to uplift the Indian community.
Waytha said his support for BN was based on a written commitment by Najib Razak, saying he had believed that the prime minister was serious in helping the Indian community.
“Obviously he did not fulfil the promises and as a matter of principle, I left,” he said.
He said after leaving the Cabinet, he frequently visited Indian communities in rural areas, adding that they were often left out of the country’s “mainstream economy”.
“We need to keep the people’s hope alive, that change is possible. We don’t believe BN can bring that change. So we are trying again with PH,” he said.
Earlier, Mahathir admitted that the Indian community was not adequately represented in PH, adding that the group’s support was vital for the coalition’s machinery.
“So we are working to get Hindraf, if not as a member of PH, at least as part of the opposition,” he said.