As PKR decides on its candidate for the Bukit Selambau by-elections come April 7, supporters of one prospective candidate are already considering a Plan B.
Jerai division chief B Kalaivanar, one of the four said to be on the shortlist, has been described by his backers as loyal and committed to the party - and they want leaders to choose him to contest the state seat in Kedah.
If the party overlooks Kalaivanar, a grassroots leader and social activist, they are set to desert the election campaign and may even leave PKR altogether.
Rumours are also spreading that Kalaivanar could contest as an Independent, which would give rival Barisan Nasional an unexpected lifeline to wrest the seat from Pakatan Rakyat.
Although his detractors have cast aspersions on his integrity and credibility, especially in financial dealings, Kalaivanar has challenged them to substantiate their claims.
PKR’s V Arumugam vacated the seat on Feb 9 when he resigned as an elected representative and Kedah executive councillor.
Arumugam was originally a PKR member before he resigned to contest the seat in last year’s national polls as an Independent. However, he instantly re-joined PKR after his victory.
Under the 2008 Pakatan electoral arrangement, Bukit Selambau was allotted to PKR. That gives PKR the edge in defending the seat.
It is learnt that the party’s shortlist includes Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) national coordinator RS Thanenthiran, Internal Security Act detainee (ISA) T Vasantha Kumar, and Kedah PKR deputy Youth leader Dr R Krishnamoorthy.
The DAP, meanwhile, is pressing on with its argument that it had always contested the constituency prior to 2008 even if its candidates were not successful.
Two weeks ago, it submitted several names to the Pakatan leadership - Lunas branch chairperson S Neelamekan, deputy state chairperson V Gnanaguru and state organising secretary Teoh Teik Guan.
When contacted, Teoh said Kedah DAP would leave it to the discretion and wisdom of Pakatan leaders to choose the best candidate from DAP or PKR.
"Although the DAP is very keen to contest, in the end it has to be a Pakatan candidate. All parties should consolidate and mobilise their resources to campaign for whoever the leaders choose," Teoh said.
PAS, which had initially expressed its intention to field a non-Muslim candidate, has apparently withdrawn from the race.
Early PKR favourite
At a rally in Sungai Petani last weekend, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has assured that Pakatan would choose the right person with the best chance to win the constituency.
Of those being considered, Thanenthiran (right) seems to be an early favourite as he has the full backing of the human rights movement. Hindraf members, also known as Makkal Sakthi activists, are also raring to ensure victory for him.
Vasantha Kumar could face a handicap, as hardcore supporters of the now-banned Hindraf have disclaimed him as one of their leaders.
Although three of his fellow ISA detainees - Kota Alam Shah representative M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau - have supported his candidacy, P Uthayakumar has not and this speaks volumes of the fallout between the two.
The five have been detained at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Taiping since Dec13, 2007.
Krishnamoorthy, according to some PKR members, lacks grassroots rapport, which could hinder efforts to sustain a campaign that reaches out to voters from all walks of life.
When contacted, Krishnamoorthy claimed that he was not obsessed with the contest, but would leave it to the party leadership to decide on the candidate.
“Whether I am chosen or not is immaterial. What’s most important is that everyone must work hard to ensure PKR wins,” he said, adding that he would support the candidate who is selected.
Although the Kedah Election Committee has issued 13 nomination forms to eight Indian Malaysians, three Malays and a Chinese so far, only businessman P Chandrarajan has paid the deposit of RM5,000.
Nominations are scheduled for March 29.