The calm exterior of the 44-year-old finally cracked yesterday when he was made to answer to allegations that his bid to win this Sunday’s Hulu Selangor by-election would be at the cost of his pride and identity as a member of the Indian community.
The Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate was asked to comment about his overdependence on Umno leaders to win the by-election race and how he was seemingly willing to sacrifice the community’s struggles by kowtowing to his Muslim leaders.
This, Kamalanathan was told, was illustrated once when he kissed the hand of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and when he promised to deliver Hulu Selangor as a “gift” to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Since being named as a candidate, he has also defended Malay rights group Perkasa, a move that earned him plenty of criticism.
A shocked-looking Kamalanathan immediately replaced his smile with a frown and quickly defended his move.
“Kiss his hand? When did I kiss his hand? Show me where I did that,” he exclaimed, looking miffed when asked at an unplanned press conference in Ladang Kerling near here.
He said that even if he had indeed kissed Muhyiddin’s hand, it was not a wrongful act but was merely a depiction of Malaysian culture.
When asked about how the act might show signs that he was willing to sacrifice Indian pride for the sake of winning the by-election, Kamalanathan looked further agitated.
“Oh my God! This is culture we are talking about. If someone can say that culture is selling pride then I do not know what they are talking about.
“I am shocked that people can compare culture to pride,” he said.
The MIC information chief insisted that it was in Malaysian culture to show such acts of respect to the elders.
“Every child is taught to respect their elders. I was taught the same thing,” he said.
Kamalanathan (left) was also queried on Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) occasional reference to how he, as a first-time candidate, had to hide behind the Umno top guns like Muhyiddin and Najib in order to win himself support.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had pointed out yesterday how the by-election was really an Umno show in view of the large number of banners containing Najib’s face instead of Kamalanathan.
Umno leaders, including a number of their Cabinet ministers and top party leaders have also been tirelessly campaigning on the ground for Kamalanathan.
“Then (PKR de facto leader) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should not be here. Thank you. Next question,” he said abruptly and moved to face another reporter.
Kamalanathan also scoffed at claims by the PR that he was an inexperienced politician who would not be able to serve the people of Hulu Selangor better than their candidate, former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
“I have been in the MIC for 26 years. I am not someone new in the system. I know what needs to be done,” he firmly said.
He pointed out that he was not just working the ground but he was working “very hard”.
“They need a person to be able to work for them day and night. They need someone who can communicate with them. They need someone who can help them and they need someone who can deliver those needs.
“I can help them,” he said confidently.
Kamalanathan, who later apologised for his forcefully delivered answers, then said that since he embarked on his campaign, he had not received negative response from any community.
He however pointedly referred to the group as Malaysians, instead of identifying the separate communities.
“I have been meeting with the Malaysians in Hulu Selangor and there has been not one negative response from anyone. I have travelled many places and they have all accepted me.
“I have spoken and shook hands with even the friends of the opposition parties — PAS, PKR, DAP — I spoke to many of them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kamalanathan continues to feel the same confidence he had felt from day one of the campaign and reiterated that he would win the Hulu Selangor by-election.
“I am confident. I am working hard, very, very hard. I am focussed on meeting the people and telling them what the BN can do, what I can do for them,” he said.
Kamalanathan’s daily journey this past week has taken him to more than 10 locations across the constituency every day beginning from 8am and ending at nearly 3am.
“I sleep then I have to wake again at 6am for the next function. However, to be honest, I am not tired yet.
“I think it is good... God has given me the opportunity to exercise. This (schedule) has not disheartened me,” he said.
Kamalanathan also graciously continued to choose to stay out of the campaign war the opposition and his fellow BN colleagues have been engaged in.
He has promised to keep “clean” even as both parties continue to hurl derogatory accusations at one another every day.
“Oh no. I will not speak on that. I have no plans to embark on personal attacks. I am here to concentrate on my campaign. I want to make 60,000 friends in Hulu Selangor,” he said when asked to comment on the allegations made against Zaid’s drinking past.