I WASN'T at all surprised that MP for Jerlun, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, didn't quit Umno to ride with his father and do battle outside the party he led for 22 years. It may not be a father-son sandiwara as seen by some, but it's a drama that has caught the imagination of many.
But I was somewhat surprised that Mukhriz repeated his call for Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as Umno President and Prime Minister. I had thought that Mukhriz would not display his steel balls (pardon my French) so prominently by asking Pak Lah to resign from his post.
I thought that he would ease a bit and take a more subtle approach and try not to irk the party leaders too much too soon after the father dropped the Wesak day bombshell. Father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and mother Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali announced their resignation from Umno in Kedah on Monday.
Mukhriz obviously wants to pursue his own battle within Umno. A political observer told me Mukhriz hoped to attract his father's goodwill among Umno members to be with him in the months ahead. After all, he is going to contest the Umno Youth presidency in the December polls.
That is if he is not sacked by the party first for making another call to Pak Lah to step down. There were already voices from among senior party leaders urging Mukhriz to heed his father's call to Umno members to leave the party. It appears to me that Mukhriz is not easily provoked.
I haven't heard many Umno members jumping ship to follow Dr Mahathir. It may disappoint the former Prime Minister. To me, it would be rather naive for Dr Mahathir to think that Umno members would leave the party just because he urged them to. Dr Mahathir is a master of mind games and we haven't seen what else he's got in his sleeves.
Some ordinary members from the rank and file may do so. But I doubt if those holding posts would just hand in their resignation and ride with Dr Mahathir into the horizons yonder.
Then again, Pak Lah shouldn't find comfort just because the members chose to stay and not move out. These members may not physically leave the party, but their hearts and mind may no longer be with the party leadership. These are the silent majority whose moves could undermine party leadership one way or another.
In fact, voices questioning Pak Lah's leadership were also heard on TV a few hours ago. Bernama TV's talk show, Hello Malaysia, held everynight at 1030pm, have guests being interviewed on current affairs.
This time it featured Datuk Nakhaie Ahmad, one time Umno supreme council member and an Islamic scholar whose views are often sought to help the party in Islamic matters. Nakhaie was asked by phone-in interviewers over many issues and he tried his best to answer them.
Towards the end of the programme, one caller asked whether Pak Lah has come up with a date when he would quit his post! I'm not sure if the question was triggered by Dr Mahathir's decision to leave Umno or was he echoing Mukhriz's call.
But the fact is, the ground appears to be more restless now that what it was a few days ago. Remarks such as 'duri dalam daging' (thorn in the flesh) describing Dr Mahathir have not endeared ordinary members to the existing hierachy. Even Nakahie publicly said the remark was uncalled for.
The events before us are still unfolding. Umno's branch and divisional elections which are due to start in July may see some manifestation of the restlessness that is felt on the ground. Dr Mahathir may have left the party for a couple of months by then, but his words would still echo in the background.