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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Samy’s successor walks a tight rope

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 – MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu who announced today he will step down in January is not expected entirely to give his successor, Datuk G. Palanivel, a free hand.

Samy Vellu is expected to head the party’s education wing like AIMST University and still carry considerable clout in the party through his formidable network of supporters in the CWC as well as State MIC’s and rank and file.

His supporters, including his son Vel Paari whose ambition is to inherit the party within the next decade, are expected to gather around their clansman Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, the senior vice-president and Human Resources minister.

He will be the leader of the incumbent faction in MIC.

Palanivel, who will be acting president until an election for the president is held sometime in 2013, has to walk carefully to ensure he does not run foul of Samy Vellu and his clansman Dr Subramaniam.

The results of the 2009 party election shows Palanivel is politically weak and has to use his time judiciously as acting president to build up his support base.

He can also do what Samy Vellu did in 1981. He cut a deal with Dr Subramaniam and anoint him as the deputy president and build on that to shore up his strength.

Under changes to the party constitution in 2009, the president can only hold office for three terms or nine years unlike the case of Samy Vellu.

If Palanivel honours this article in the constitution, he can hold office without a challenge from Dr Subramaniam and hand over the party to his deputy when his three-terms as p-resident is up, provided Dr Subramaniam and his camp agree to this.

If they don’t agree then a major contest for the president’s post is the offing in 2013 or earlier between Palanivel, Dr Subramaniam and possibly even with Datuk Subramaniam and former vice-president Datuk S. Sothinathan, joining the fray.

But for the moment Datuk Subramaniam’s supporters are willing to back Palanivel and help to shore up his position to defeat what they see as their real political enemy which is Dr Subramaniam who is expected to inherit Samy Vellu’s support base.

In the short term, however, one issue is a cabinet post for Palanivel. It is a subject of hot speculation. Dr Subramaniam, being the vice-president is Cabinet minister while Palanivel, as acting president is only a deputy minister by virtue of his appointment as Senator in May after losing Hulu Selangor in 2008.

Either Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak ask them to switch cabinet posts – Palanivel becoming minister and Dr Subramaniam relegated to a deputy minister to reflect the power hierarchy in the MIC or, as some MIC leaders hope, the MIC gets two ministers as it was the case before Samy Vellu.

For Najib the immediate priority is to get the MIC ready and prepared, under a new leader, to face the next general election. To advance his agenda the MIC must close ranks and put up a united front.

“Everybody wants to cross the general election hurdle...life only starts after that,” said a senior MIC leader. “We will close ranks, bury our differences and pretend to be united to achieve the general election aims.”

Another issue that can spark dissension is the selection of candidates for the general election. Palanivel himself would have a dilemma as to where to contest.

He lost Hulu Selangor after four terms as MP. He was not selected as MP in the April by-election and he can’t go to Sungei Siput which is tainted by Samy Vellu’s defeat.

Other MIC candidates, many of them who lost in 2008, have to be retired but they are ambitious and want to stand again even though many in the Indian community can’t stand the sight of them.

But they have served Palanivel and support him and will want their rewards now that he is to be acting president.

The other headache is selecting the new MIC candidates, few of them have the ability to win confidently without outright Umno support.

But before that the question is how Palanivel will perform and how he heals the wounds inflicted by Samy Vellu on the Indian community.

His ability to reach out and gathered all the loose and hurt strands in the Indian community would be the true test of his leadership.

A former CAP activist Palanivel might have the ideas how to rejuvenate the community but he might not have the support in the MIC which has became a fossilised, self-centred animal under Samy Vellu’s long rule.

The job is cut out for Palanivel – unite the party, breathe new life into it, capture the hearts and minds of the Indian community and win convincingly in the next general election.

At the same time watch his back and not let a retired Samy Vellu set the agenda for him.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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