Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Dr M's words ringing in Palanivel's ears
Can there be a last-minute reversal that will see MIC or its deputy president G Palanivel not being able to contest in the upcoming Hulu Selangor by-election? After all, politics is the art of the impossible.
The first sign came from former Selangor menteri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, who labelled Palanivel as a “problematic” candidate.
However, he later changed his mind, and stated that the Hulu Selangor seat should be given to MIC in the spirit of Barisan Nasional.
The influential Umno warlord said the spirit of understanding nurtured since 1957 between BN parties should not be compromised just because of the desire to win in one constituency.
Despite his 180 degree turn, Khir's initial statement has done some damage to Palanivel's candidature. It sparked off a debate on whether convention should be observed, or if BN should focus on winning this crucial by-election by fielding the best available candidate irrespective of the party.
The controversy over Palanivel’s candidature is also partly due to the fact that MIC president S Samy Vellu announced MIC’s candidate even before the Election Commission decided on the date for the by-election.
This prompted the Umno-owned Malay daily Utusan Malaysia to lash out against Samy Vellu, saying that it should be Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as BN chairman who should decide the candidate.
'They want Mike Tyson in the ring
'As for sentiments on the ground, local Umno leaders and even some pro-BN Indian groups want former menteri besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib, fondly known as Mike Tyson, to contest the seat. They believe that he has what it takes to wrest back the seat from Pakatan Rakyat.
Muhammad had been the former sate assemblyman in the constituency and being a local with a pleasant disposition, he has the charisma to win the hearts and minds of the voters.
His contributions in developing the constituency during his tenure as menteri besar will help him chalk up a victory similar to what Mohd Isa Samad did in Negeri Sembilan's Bagan Pinang by-election.
Pakatan appears set to field a Malay candidate from PKR in this constituency which has about 54% Malay voters. Since MIC is seen as being weak, and riddled with problems, the Malay voters may cast their ballots in favour of a Malay candidate. This is exerting tremendous pressure on Umno to take the seat from MIC.
Even the Indian voters, who make up 19 percent of the total electorate, are divided with regard to Palanivel.
Local MIC sources claimed that MIC Youth leader V Mugilan, who hails from Hulu Selangor, has been campaigning for the seat, saying that the party should field him since he is younger than Palanivel and stands a better chance of winning it.
The Kerling-born Mugilan is also the Hulu Selangor MIC Youth chief.
However, the MIC leadership moved in swiftly to set things in order. Recently, the National Youth Council, which includes Mugilan, expressed its unanimous support for Palanivel.
Tamil Nesan, the Samy Vellu-aligned daily, published a statement today (April 1) where Mugilan declared his full support for Palanivel. He also vowed to resign from all posts if it can be proven that his “behind-the-scenes” campaign can lead to Palanivel being dropped.
Palanivel’s candidature also faces opposition from another local party stalwart, V Chandran.
Chandran is the former Hulu Selangor MIC division deputy chairman and former chairman of the Batang Kali Bandar Utama MIC division.
He has indictaed that he will contest as an independent if MIC decides to field Palanivel.
Previously, Chandran was a long-time staunch supporter of Palanivel, but their relationship soured last year, and the former was expelled from MIC.
Since Chandran is well known among the local residents and MIC members, he can do some damage to Palanivel’s chances irrespective of whether he stands as an independent or not.
Dr M: You may win the party polls but ...
Although such local opposition is common for any candidate in a constituency, in this particular by-election it can be crucial since the fight is expected to be close.
Winning the bulk of the 19% Indian votes is a must for the MIC candidate if he is to win the constituency.
The Malay voters are expected to be divided while the majority of the Chinese voters (27 percent) are expected to vote in favour of Pakatan in view of DAP’s strong presence in the Selangor state government.
MCA is still in disarray after its recent party elections and is unlikely to make any significant impact in roping in Chinese votes.
The Indian community remains disillusioned with MIC and Samy Vellu due to a string of highly publicised scandals, involving Maika Holdings, MIED and Aimst University.
Therefore, the dissatisfied Indian voters may use this by-election to send another strong signal to MIC and its president.
Palanivel, whose political stars shone brightly due to Samy Vellu's help in the past, may also see the stars dim because of his mentor.
Furthermore, supporters of Palanivel's rivals in the last party elections, S Subramaniam and S Sothinathan, may see this as an opportunity to exact revenge and refrain from voting for him in the Hulu Selangor by-election.
On the same note, supporters of MIC vice-president and Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam may also withold their votes as a victory for Palanivel can put an end to Subramaniam's tenure as minister.
In view of all these developments, there is talk that the BN leadership may opt for another candidate with a clean slate and no political baggage.
If Palanivel loses the by-election, it will have a cascading effect on MIC where aspiring leaders will attempt to lay seige on his position as deputy president.
At this juncture, the wise words of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad must be ringing in Palanivel's ears:
“You can win a position in the party election, but you may still lose in a general or by-election.”
Comments written by R Mutharasan, who is an observer and writer on Malaysian politics and Indian issues. He is the web-master of www.indiantoday.net and has also authored the book ‘Winning Strategies of Anwar Ibrahim’.Courtesy of FMT