A Bollywood-style gamble

(AGENCIES) – Embattled Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president S Samy Vellu, desperate to reclaim a seat in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s new cabinet, has reportedly threatened to withdraw the MIC’s one minister and two deputy ministers from government to put pressure on the Prime Minister, reported The Malaysian Insider on Saturday.

The high-stakes gamble comes after Mr Najib reportedly ignored hints dropped by Mr Vellu last week to appoint the MIC president as a senator and return him to cabinet, reported the news portal.

The leaked report added that Mr Vellu had the support of party vice-president Sothinathan and that the proposal would be tabled at the party’s central working committee meeting on Thursday. The report was picked up by newspapers yesterday, including Tamil Nesan, owned by Mr Vellu, which ran it on its front-page, adding to the report’s credibility.

According to the report, Mr Vellu had complained to his supporters that if Gerakan president Dr Koh Tsu Koon could be made a senator and minister, he should have been accorded the same privilege.

He is also unhappy that Selangor Gerakan chief A Kohilan Pillay, rather than one of his nominees, was made a deputy foreign minister, a high-profile post for an Indian.

Adding to this, The Star quoted an unnamed official saying: "The MIC, as the third-largest component member in the Barisan Nasional, had not been given due respect or accorded the deserving treatment by the new government".

Political watchers have said that Mr Vellu has two choices at the meeting, to work up his loyalists into making a "do or die" stand over the issue or deny the leaked stories and walk away from the issue.

A former MIC leader said that there would be stiff resistance to the idea at Thursday’s central working committee meeting.

Late last night, MIC deputy president G Palanivel said he was unaware of any meeting to discuss the possibility of pulling out MIC’s representatives from the new cabinet. "If such a meeting was held, I would have known about it. MIC secretary-general S Subramaniam and information chief M Saravanan have also denied knowledge of the proposal," he added.

"Except for Sothinathan, Samy Vellu is alone in this gambit," said another senior MIC leader. "He has been asked to wrap up and hand over power in the party by mid-year and that has upset him. He wants to put his man as deputy and serve his three-year term as president before handing over … This is the real spark for the rebellion against Mr Najib."

Mr Vellu, who believes he can make a comeback, was elected MIC president for an 11th term last month and wants to complete the three-year term before handing over to a yet unnamed successor.

MIC vice-president K S Nijhar, however, has come out to say that instead of harping on the cabinet issue, the party should focus more on reaching out to Indians. "We should stop sulking like adolescents and behave like adults," he said in a statement.