Johari Ghani may give Titiwangsa another go to silence critics

As news of a fire that destroyed some 50 stalls at Pasar Datuk Keramat on Wednesday made its rounds, Titiwangsa MP Datuk Seri Rina Harun and Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa made their presence felt at the scene.

But there was another familiar face, Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, who spent time talking to firefighters and traders who lost their stalls in such trying times.

Why would a man who lost the Titiwangsa seat in the 2018 general election still bother about those who failed to keep him in office?

The hatred towards Barisan Nasional (BN), then led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in 2018 was obvious as it resulted in the coalition being booted out of Putrajaya. Johari was a casualty.

Rina toppled Johari in a three-cornered fight after securing 23,840 votes in the Titiwangsa contest. Johari received 19,701 votes while Mohamad Noor Mohamad from PAS obtained 6,845.

Rina was dubbed as a “giant killer” as Johari was an Umno strongman who served as Finance Minister II under the Najib administration. More importantly, he served his constituents diligently throughout his short-lived term there (2013-2018).

Many others who tumbled stopped being active right after the 14th GE. Johari, a certified auditor with a long list of credentials, quickly returned to the corporate world. Yet, he remained committed to the people of Titiwangsa.

Despite being part of “kluster kalah“, some within Umno believe Johari should be positioned in a right manner – given the party’s quandary where many of its leaders are now eager to play hero and eventually be the top man if and when they reclaim Putrajaya.

“He should be speaking about the economy and education and not just focusing on his programmes in Titiwangsa,” remarked an Umno Supreme Council member recently.

“Johari has the qualities (of being a key leader in Umno). And he is also a person of authority (based on his corporate standing) to discuss policies concerning matters that affect the people. He is successful and is the ‘fresh face’ that the party needs.”

But Johari being who he is, will continue to roll up his sleeves and play ball with the people in Titiwangsa. Given that he has remained active in the area over the past three years, shows that the former Kuala Lumpur FA vice-president is setting his sights on another go in the next general election. Born and bred in Kampung Pandan, the “city boy” still has a strong connection with the people there.

Some still mock Johari over his defeat. Rina, after all, is a newcomer who has yet to shine in the political scene despite being a minister.

In fact, those close to him say the 2018 loss remains his main motivation to contest in Titiwangsa. In short, Johari would like to silence his critics.

Also, it will be interesting to see who will go up against Johari this time as some claim Rina may contest elsewhere – Sepang perhaps. After all, she is from there and once served as Sepang Puteri Umno chief before ditching the party.

In an interview with the writer in July 2015, Johari was asked about his quick rise in politics.

He replied in jest: “Do you think I am going up fast? I’m already 51!”

Johari turned 57 on March 6. This could be his ‘last kopek’ – to reclaim his Titiwangsa MP title and build his political mansion.

Another defeat will see Johari saying goodbye to the Titiwangsa constituents as he will eventually just concentrate on building business empires.