Palanivel is the target


Loganathan Batumalai

The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) is in a real mess right now. Hard to know who is wanting what, and why they are wanting it, and what can be decided in the weeks to come.

The media is only reporting about the Registrar of Societies’ (ROS) order annulling the 2013 party election for the positions of vice-presidents and central working committee (CWC).

To outsiders to know why only those positions are being challenged, MIC did not have a contest for president and deputy president last year, which is they are not disputed. And the CWC argument and fight, on who should have attended December 18 meeting, would have not affected G.Palanivel and S.Subramaniam, the president and deputy president respectively.

While Palanivel’s legitimacy via the elections is not being questioned, many are using this opportunity to ask for his resignation. Why? He has been president for four years, why the impatience?  This is not the time of S.Samy Vellu, it is not about thirty years of one man in charge. However, the answer might be with one of his protégés, MIC vice-president and deputy minister of youth and sports M.Saravanan.

Palanivel became MIC president in 2010, but the years have been cruel to him. He lost the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat after four terms in 2008; was rejected openly by both MIC members and Umno supporters when he tried to be the candidate for the seat’s by-election in 2010 after his victor died; forced to contest in Cameron Highlands in 2013 and won close but only to have a mudslide six months later; and a year later last month have a worse mudslide with the Sultan of Pahang angry at him.

His critics know he is weak and we won’t know if it is fortune or unseen hands that have brought the ROS decision on MIC right now.

As a MIC member, I am worried for my party. As a Malaysian, I am worried about what this may do to the Barisan Nasional. The worst would be the increase in support for both the PPP and Hindraf type organisations always trying to tell the prime minister they have the Indian votes.

The person best likely to benefit from the ROS decision to turn into a party-wide election is Saravanan. No one has close links with the physical side of MIC’s membership like the deputy minister. Not since Samy Vellu, who also brought Saravanan to prominence.

Samy Vellu may be in the shadows only with his son S.Vell Paari looking to go higher up in the party, but Saravanan has business allies like Subramaniam Pillai of Daya Maju Infrastructure (Asia) Sdn Bhd (DMIA) to build his financial clout as much as his political clout.

The violence and aggression at the CWC meeting yesterday is only a sign of things to come, because those opposed to the election results are equally opposed to the leadership of Palanivel.

If Health Minister Subramaniam replaces Palanivel uncontested, because he is the compromise for all sides, without great levels of grassroots support, then Saravanan will certainly become deputy president.

This is what upsets me as a MIC member. I am fine that politicians want to win more power, but how about the normal Indian on the street. My friends tell me MIC is not the party for professionals, and I find it is difficult to answer when projects like the Little India Brickfields is used to network with allies rather than commit to creating a great environment for the Indian community. The more I see with what is happening in the constant fight for power it appears all the leaders are just preparing their war chests to win over regular members, to get them to fight outside on the street and let all of Malaysia see them fight. So people can say, this is the Indian party, a place where Indian men fight.

I cannot think of a way forward in the present, all I can hope is that the leaders realise while they fight the fate of millions of Indians, most of them the poorest in this country, is not improving.

That is what they have to realise if they really care. Otherwise the Indian stereotype is only going to be magnified in the months to come. I fear we might be going back to the days of M.G.Pandithan dragging a coffin into the party headquarters.  Can Indian leaders find some civility, or do they have to wait for the prime minister to do something about this mess?