By JOCELINE TAN
A virtual unknown is leading in the battle for the leadership of Puteri Umno leaving her more seasoned and glamorous rivals trailing.
THE contest for the leadership of Puteri Umno has more than its share of young and quite glamorous figures but a virtual unknown, whom few had paid much attention to, has pulled ahead in the race.
Ida Rahayu Md Noor, one of six contestants for the post, has become the classic dark horse of the contest, galloping ahead of her much more seasoned rivals.
The Selangor-based businesswoman may just stun everyone by winning the top post.
The pint-sized and plain-looking lady does not seem to believe in wearing make-up but she runs Eurofine (M) Sdn Bhd, a film distributing company.
Her competitive position in the race was unexpected because she had not been active in Puteri, at least not in the way that her rivals had been.
“When she was nominated for the post by her PJ Utara division, I had to ask my friends who she was,” said a Puteri official from Kuala Lumpur.
However, she is said to be close to outgoing Puteri chief Datuk Noraini Ahmad, who had sat on the Eurofine board.
Noraini resigned from the board when she was appointed a deputy minister after the general election.
Ida Rahayu had also been awarded an entrepeneurship award during a Puteri assembly two years ago.
The other contestants are the wing’s incumbent deputy chief Datuk Rosnah Shirlin Abdul Rashid, information chief Datuk Shahaniza Shamsuddin, treasurer Bibi Sharliza Mohd Khalid, exco member Datin Ismalina Ismail and Seputeh member Saarah Ali Bashah.
Unlike Ida Rahayu, most of the other contestants have the track record and were founding leaders of the movement.
But the simplest ideas are sometimes the most effective, and Ida Rahayu’s campaign seems hinged on that.
For instance, everyone in Umno knows that Puteri’s performance in the last four years has been so disappointing that some leaders no longer take it seriously.
Ida Rahayu has exploited the sentiment and campaigned on the line that she is not like the pioneer group of Puteri leaders and that she will be doing things differently.
She went from state to state, with a Powerpoint presentation explaining her plans for the wing if she wins.
In Kota Kinabalu last Sunday, at the function for Umno election candidates to meet delegates from Sabah, there was thunderous applause when she was introduced to the crowd, leading some of those present to claim she had brought her supporters to the event.
Others dismissed it as the “politics of applause”.
Such is the threat that she now poses to her rivals.
Rosnah, who is also Papar MP in Sabah, had been the favourite at the start of the contest, thanks largely to the perception that as the incumbent No 2, she should naturally move up to No 1.
But she has since faced stiff competition from Shahaniza, a lawyer and assemblyman from Pahang, who has carried herself very well over the years.
Not far behind is Ismalina, an articulate graduate of the International Islamic University.
Ismalina is said to be doing well but her problem is that her husband Datuk Reezal Merican, a political secretary to the Prime Minister, is contesting the No 2 post in Umno Youth and some have reservations about having too many family members at the top.
Bibi, who comes from a well-known family in Negri Sembilan, is finding it tough although she is an assemblyman and is familiar with the Puteri ground.
But Saarah, a wealthy businesswoman, is trailing badly in her second attempt at the post.
Her first attempt failed because she could not even secure the two nominations needed to contest.
Apparently, Ida Rahayu is said to be in such a commanding lead that supporters of the other contestants are urging them to strike a compromise so that only one of them will remain to take her on.
But few see a compromise among the four ambitious women.
The campaign is too advanced.
A lot of time and money has been invested and besides, there is the tantalising prize dangling at the finishing line – the victor will get a cushy government post.
Puteri’s pioneer chief Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said was made a minister while Datuk Noraini Othman was appointed deputy minister.
The final lap has started and all the contestants hope their name will be on the prize.