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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sweeping changes to MIC candidates list?

Party sources reveal that several top guns are expected to be dropped as candidates for the next general election.

KUALA LUMPUR: MIC president G Palanivel is expected to make sweeping changes to the party’s candidates list for the next general election, expected to be called within the next 18 months.

Party sources reveal that the new president, who took the helm of the MIC late last year, will drop several top guns and nominate news faces to fill in the vacant slots.

Sources say Palanivel has prepared a list of candidates to contest the nine parliamentary and 19 state assembly seat allocated to MIC under Barisan Nasional’s seat sharing system.

This follows a call by Deputy Prime Minister and deputy BN chief Muhyiddin Yassin who recently asked all component parties to prepare their list of candidates for the next general election.

MIC is the third largest BN component party after Umno and MCA. The party’s nine parliamentary seats are Tapah, Sungai Siput (both in Perak), Cameron Highlands (Pahang), Teluk Kemang (Negri Sembilan), Kota Raja, Kapar, Subang, Hulu Selangor (Selangor) and Segamat (Johor).

The party suffered its worst general election setback in 2008, retaining only three of the nine parliamentary seats.

Among those who lost their seats were then party chief S Samy Vellu and his former deputy Palanivel. Samy Vellu, the longest-serving MIC president prior to his retirement last year, lost in Sungai Siput while Palanivel lost the Hulu Selangor constituency.

However, the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat came back to BN through a by-election last year.

For this by-election, the BN top leadership rejected Palanivel as a candidate and named former MIC information chief P Kamalanathan as the candidate. The reason given for Palanivel’s rejection was because the ruling coalition wanted a “winnable” candidate.

Palanivel eyeing Cameron Highlands?

Party insiders reveal that the newly crowned MIC chief is now eyeing the Cameron Highlands parliamentary constituency replacing MIC vice-president SK Devamany, who is also deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

“Palanivel intends to contest in Cameron Highlands… he considers it to be a winnable seat,” said a party leader.

He said although Palanivel is Selangor MIC chief, he has yet to gather enough grassroots support in the state for him to contest one of the four parliamentary seats allotted to MIC in Selangor.

Another fear is that Palanivel will lose by contesting in Selangor as all the four seats – Subang, Kapar, Kota Raja and Hulu Selangor – are said to be “conquered” by Pakatan Rakyat.

“Palanivel was previously eyeing the Sepang parliamentary seat. However, the idea was dropped after Umno refused to swap the seat with the Kota Raja parliamentary constituency,” said the party source.

Out of the nine parliamentary seats, only the Segamat seat looks like a good bet for MIC. Party deputy president and Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam is expected to stay put to contest the seat.

“Based on this, Palanivel needs a safe seat which would ensure a BN win. If he losses and Dr Subramaniam wins, Palanivel would have to vacate the presidency and that would effectively end his political fairytale,” said a party insider.

On another front, speculation is rife that M Saravanan, who is a deputy minister and MIC vice-president, will be shifted to the Kapar constituency. Saravanan, the Tapah MP, is also the Federal Territory MIC head.

It is learnt that Perak State Legislative Assembly speaker and state MIC deputy chairman R Ganesan is being groomed to replace Saravanan in the Tapah constituency.

The announcement by the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) that it will field its candidate in Kapar will turn the largest parliamentary constituency in the country in terms of voters, into a hot seat.

“With MCLM in the fray, the Kapar seat would definitely be too close to call. Fielding a top gun like Saravanan would only brighten BN’s chances of winning the seat,” said a party insider.

Sources also reveal that incumbent Kapar MP S Manikavasagam of PKR will not contest the seat in the next general election.

S Sothinathan back in the race

A surprise inclusion in the MIC list will be S Sothinathan, who, MIC insiders say, will contest the Teluk Kemang seat in Negri Sembilan.

Sothinathan has been in “cold storage” since he lost in his bid to contest the MIC deputy president’s post in 2009. He was a two-term Teluk Kemang MP before losing the seat in 2008.

Palanivel, sources say, offered an olive branch to Sothinathan in order to “check” Dr Subramaniam.

FMT also learnt that MIC secretary-general S Murugesan will be asked to contest the Sungai Siput seat while party treasurer Jaspal Singh will be fielded in Subang.

MIC central working committee member M Mohana from the Puchong division is said to be the party’s candidate for Kota Raja.

Kamalanathan is expected to be retained for Hulu Selangor.

MIC Youth and Wanita chiefs T Mohan and P Komala Devi respectively will not be given any seat to contest, said the party source.

A MIC leader, who declined to be named, said although the list has been drawn up, it is not final.

“The candidates need to be endorsed by the respective divisions. Furthermore, ground work needs to be done if the named candidate is acceptable to all, not only Indian voters,” he said.

The fate of former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam is also unknown.

“The same with Samy Vellu’s son Vell Paari… it’s a million-dollar question. As I said earlier, the list is just the beginning… there is a possibility of minor changes,” he said.

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