Winning the mind, not the heart

A business leader says that Barisan Nasional must not take the Indian community for another ride, and calls for concrete steps to be initiated.

“Spending millions on Deepavali bashes, fancy billboards and holding concerts will not benefit the community. We must journey beyond such superficial efforts to remedy the malaise,” he told FMT.

RK Anand, Free Malaysia Today

The mammoth turnout for the Deepavali open house in Batu Caves has been trumpeted as another sign of the Indian community’s support returning for the ruling coalition under the stewardship of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

In the last general election, Indian voters, whose support for BN remained unwavering till then, cast their ballots for the opposition, leaving the coalition with a bloodied nose.

Upon assuming office in the following year, Najib embarked on a quest to win back the heart and mind of the Indian electorate.

While a spate of by-elections revealed that his efforts to woo Chinese votes yielded little, if no success, the voting trend in the same by-elections appears to be encouraging as far as Indian support is concerned.

Indian leaders in MIC and other pro-BN organisations have lauded Najib for his willingness to elevate the socio-economic standard of the community.

However, a seasoned political observer and business leader noted that the prime minister is winning over the minds with mere cosmetic changes and fanfares but has yet to make inroads into the hearts of the Indians.

Politician or statesman?

According to Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) president P Sivakumar, Najib must make an important decision.

He must decide between being another run-of-the mill politician churning out “quick-fixes” to win votes and a statesman who will initiate genuine reforms to uplift a community that has been, in the words of MIC president G Palanivel himself, marginalised for decades.

“Spending millions on Deepavali bashes, fancy billboards and holding concerts will not benefit the community. We must journey beyond such superficial efforts to remedy the malaise,” he told FMT.

“BN should not take the Indian community for another ride,” he stressed, showering criticism on the community’s leaders who are willing accomplices in this plot.

The community leaders who help the ruling coalition perpetuate the oppression of the Indian community, he added, are committing a cardinal sin.

“This is because they are digging the graves of the future generation even before the dust has settled on the graves of the older generation,” he said.

GLC ads meaningless

Commenting on the Deepavali advertisements by government-linked companies, Sivakumar said it would have been more meaningful if Najib had announced that a certain percentage of employment opportunities or business contracts have been set aside for the Indians in GLCs such as Petronas and Pos Malaysia.

“For years, these companies only display their ‘all-encompassing’ attitude in advertisements during the festive season but the reality on the ground is starkly different.

“Are we as Malaysian citizens whose forefathers’ sweat and toil contributed immensely towards the progress of this nation, asking for too much?” he added.

Acknowledging that Indian support is growing for BN, the Miba president warned that the urban middle class and more educated Indian voters remain unconvinced and the government should not make the mistake of resting on its laurels thinking that all is well.

“These voters want to see significant changes and not dancers prancing on the stage. They are not interested in being paid to attend functions or a free lunch. If the government fails to deliver the goods, they will not deliver the votes. It’s as simple as that,” he added.

He said these voters want a just, equitable, transparent and accountable government which respects fundamental human rights.