Soon, a Hindraf political party

By Baradan Kuppusamy (The Malaysian Insider)

KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Major changes are under way in the Hindraf and Makkal Sakthi movement.

The changes could possibly see the return of Hindraf founding chairman P. Waythamoorthy from self-imposed exile in London, the setting up of a new Indian political party and an affiliate mass-based NGO, and the release of the three remaining Hindraf leaders in ISA detention including P. Uthayakumar.

These are among changes seen by Hindraf leaders as necessary to get the movement out of the rut it is in — splintered and without a coherent agenda and vision.

These changes, if they pan out, would have a significant impact on all Indian-based political parties like the MIC, PPP and the splintered IPF, all of which claim to represent the Tamil working class.

A new Hindraf/Makkal Sakthi-based political party, possibly called the Makkal Sakthi Congress, according to a national Hindraf co-coordinator, would significantly erode Indian support for the traditional Indian-based political parties.

The worst to be affected would be the MIC which claims 750,000 members, more than half the Indian population, but which lost massively in the March 8, 2008 general election.

Opposition political parties like PKR and the DAP that rode the Hindraf wave and benefited hugely would also suffer if a new Hindraf/Makkal Sakthi political party is set up.

“It is time we set up a new political platform to unite, consolidate and fight for Indian rights,” said Hindraf national co-coordinator R.S. Thanenthiran.

“We have to move up the value chain and the next logical step is our own political vehicle,” he told The Malaysian Insider. “Our own political vehicle would enhance out struggle.”

He said currently Makkal Sakthi is heavily splintered and exploited by various political parties for their own ends.

“We want to end this situation and take off boldly on our own.”

It is also learned that the government has sent out feelers to Hindraf leaders here and abroad and that negotiations have started with the aim of finding a new formula under which all sides can be accommodated.

However, Hindraf founders Waythamoorthy and his brother Uthayakumar remain ambiguous about the role for the Makkal Sakthi movement that was sparked by the Nov 25, 2007 demonstration in the federal capital.

They alternate between wanting a political vehicle of their own and remaining non-political.

Earlier this week Waythamoorthy announced that he had dissolved all coordinator positions in the movement and had formed new coordinating committees to enhance their position.

One of those dropped is Thanenthiran who however told The Malaysian Insider that the move is misunderstood.

“We are just clearing the deck ahead of forming a new political organisation,” he said, adding they hope to consolidate and take off in the next three months.

A meeting would be held in Chennai, India next month to work out the form and shape of the new political organisation and the political role it wants to play.

A major issue is which side of the divide the new party would be on.

The choices are Pakatan Rakyat, Barisan Nasional or to be independent — a difficult choice to make considering Indian grassroots sentiments remain with the PR as the recent Bukit Selambau by-election results indicate.

Indian voters are willing, despite initial fears of “creeping Islam”, to even vote for PAS in overwhelming numbers.

“They feel comfortable with the Pakatan for now and over time that support will become institutionalised and become a permanent trend unless the MIC and the BN make over urgently,” political scientist Dr Denison Jayasooriya told The Malaysian Insider.

“It is a now or never situation for the MIC and the BN,” he said, adding the political landscape is constantly changing as the old rules are discarded and new players enter the fray.