Is Palanivel a failed reformer?


Perhaps MIC members cannot accept openness and freedom because they have grown too used to the shackles around their ankles.

Ravi Kumar Viswanathan, FMT

The apparent failure of MIC to evolve into a party that deserves the respect of decent people is reminiscent of the former Soviet Union’s failure to embrace the reforms promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev failed miserably in his attempt to institute liberalism and bring the Soviet Union closer to democracy. He was ousted and condemned and we may speculate that the primary reason for this was that the Soviet mindset had been in chains for decades and was not ready for change. The Russians were not ready to unshackle themselves and accept freedom.

MIC was controlled for 31 years by the autocratic S Samy Vellu. Members who were critical of his leadership were condemned as thugs and quelled by his iron fist. There were allegations that he had his own thugs to deal with dissidents, threatening them with physical harm and, at times, carrying out those threats. It is alleged that this political thuggery went on almost throughout Samy Vellu’s reign over MIC.

Finally, through the actions of the Gabungan Anti Samy Vellu (GAS), Samy Vellu had no choice but to resign, and G Palanivel took over the reins.

Whether he is conscious of it or not, Palanivel’s leadership follows Gorbachev’s style, especially when one looks at it as coming after three decades of iron-fisted rule. Palani allows freedom of expression and those who are comfortable with the change have followed him. Unfortunately, there is still a large section of the MIC membership who still cling to the Samy Velly doctrine and are unwilling to remove the chains that shackle them.

Is Palani wrong in seeking progress for MIC and a change in the Indian mindset? Is he wrong in trying to break the shackles around their ankles? Is it criminal of him to allow his critics space in the mainstream and alternative media? Alas, should there come a time when his detractors ascend the MIC throne, they will try to bring back the old dictatorial ways, but we should hope that the MIC members, now that they have tasted freedom, will resist the attempt to shackle them again.

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