APRIL 9 — When time comes for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak to name his new cabinet, that list will most likely have the name of Khairy Jamaluddin on it.
Most political observers have claimed the Umno youth chief will be ignored openly in order for Najib to keep his reform agenda credible and appease Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose extent of influence in the new administration will manifest itself in the coming weeks.
Therefore discarding Khairy is a no-brainer, if you think along those lines.
For he is often seen as the dead weight from the now dead Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration — a symbol of all things that went wrong in the Pak Lah years — and an irritant to Dr Mahathir.
Yet the matter at hand, mindful of the continued investigations of money politics in the just concluded Umno election, is that he remains Umno youth chief.
Umno presidents like to keep a tight rein on the wing. The only exception was when Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi led the movement, but that is due to his proximity and outward support for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the wake of the latter’s expulsion from Umno.
And the professed commitment for change by all senior Umno leaders, no less by Najib would lose its lustre with the highest ranking person in the party in his age group is passed over.
Bad too since it will reduce the likelihood of Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir getting a ministerial position.
Mukhriz’s inclusion which would be ecstatically received by the Mahathir clan, even if the price to be paid is to have Khairy as a minister.
Mahathir himself will be pacified by the knowledge that his input into the new administration, gives him opportunities to clip Khairy’s rise.
In a season of trying to move up all the bright young minds onto the power stage, with Najib posturing himself to be the mentor for all of them would start to look queasy, when you take out the most recognisable young leader in Umno.
Just like how Tun Razak Hussein paved the way for Malay ultras like Dr Mahathir, Tun Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Najib would like to be the leader who has an umbrella large enough to take all those who fits the “Malay ultra” label.
Yet more than all the other reasons, is Najib’s own leadership style which would entice Khairy to his cabinet.
Najib through his career may have had his political critics, but they would not criticise his willingness not to antagonise those who may threaten him.
In Khairy’s case, keeping someone like him close rather than far, could be more desirable.
Inside cabinet, Najib and his team will have opportunity to appraise Khairy’s loyalty and reliability. Even indoctrinate him, since his former patron is now a political non-entity.
Umno leaders — the successful ones — learn to adjust to the wind of change within the party. Najib himself changed political masters when he abandoned Tengku Razaleigh for Dr Mahathir in the Umno party upheaval of 1987. Same too when he had to see Pak Lah step past him to the deputy presidency in 1999.
Najib needs to know whether Khairy is a maverick or a valuable party man. All the valuable party men have to be in Team Najib. So Najib has to find out about Khairy. He’ll only do so by naming him in his cabinet.