Despite Khairy’s lack of an UMNO party leadership position, Muhyiddin appointed Khairy as science and innovation minister.
COVID-19 PROPELLED KHAIRY TO CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Later, as COVID-19 gradually engulfed Malaysia, Muhyiddin put Khairy in charge of the national vaccination programme. That propelled Khairy once again to the centre of attention, as Malaysians scrambled to get themselves and their loved ones vaccinated against the deadly virus.
Khairy’s steady and capable handling of the vaccination programme, with frequent personal participation on the ground and science-backed decisions, won him applause from the general public. He became so indispensable in the pandemic-fighting effort that when UMNO’s Ismail Sabri Yaakob took over as prime minister, Khairy was made minister of health.
But that sort of heightened public acclaim seemingly did not make Khairy particularly popular with either grassroots or senior leadership within UMNO, which saw Khairy as a huge threat to their own political advancements.
In GE15, UMNO’s mainstream faction eased Khairy out of his almost sure-win Rembau parliamentary constituency in favour of the party’s number two, Mat Hassan. Instead, Khairy had to settle with PH stronghold Sungai Buloh. He ran a vigorous electoral campaign, but ultimately it was not enough to wrest the PH-safe seat away.
In the two months since, a visibly disgruntled Khairy no longer minced his words. He openly declared his political ambition of eventually becoming Malaysia’s prime minister. He roundly criticised the party’s senior leadership for not holding elections for the top two party posts.
Zahid listened and finally had enough of Khairy’s grumbles – by expelling him from UMNO on Jan 28.