With Mugilan seen as Umno’s choice, Palanivel is Samy Vellu’s

By Baradan Kuppusamy (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 — The jostling and open debate over whether Barisan Nasional should field former incumbent Datuk G. Palanivel as its candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election, or look for a younger and more presentable fresh face, is unprecedented in the ruling coalition’s recent history.
There has rarely been such behind-the-scenes disquiet and even open acrimony over a BN candidate ever since Palanivel, the MIC deputy president and heir apparent to Samy Vellu, was touted as the likely man for the by-election.
At other times a deputy president of a BN party would be automatically respected and accepted as candidate.
The dissatisfaction against Palanivel is coming from within the MIC and the Indian community as well as from Umno in Hulu Selangor and Umno headquarters.
The campaign against Palanivel is already impacting on voters as the negative perception is widely reported in the Tamil dailies, over the Internet and by word of mouth.
The reasons for the dissension is partly because the seat fell vacant at a time when some of the long standing, key issues involving the MIC and the Indian community remain unresolved.
The by-election now forms the backdrop for these unresolved key issues.
The main issue is the retirement of Samy Vellu, who had led the party for many years and whose policies are widely blamed for deep divisions and factions in the Indian community.
After the disaster of March 8, Samy Vellu refused to call it a day like Gerakan’s Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik but continue as president exerting an iron clad control over the MIC.
His main source of power is through control of BN patronage. As president he decides who gets what — from an AMN or PJK title right up to senatorships and Datukships.
He has filled the party with his supporters by using his vote bank to have them “elected” to office.
A secondary issue is the succession — the battle between Palanivel and Samy’s former deputy, Datuk S. Subramaniam.
Subramaniam openly opposes Samy Vellu, through newspapers and NGOs he controls.
Palanivel hopes instead to get the crown by supporting Samy Vellu through thick and thin.
While Subramaniam questioned Samy Vellu’s mismanagement of Maika Holdings, Palanivel remained silent.
When Subramaniam vocally questioned a recent plan by Samy Vellu to hive off the MIED, the owner of the AIMST University, Palanivel remained silent.
As a result Palanivel took a beating in popularity for not speaking up for the community. That’s one reason why, when he is fighting for his political life in Hulu Selangor, voices are raised in unison against him.
“Why should Barisan reward him when he did not speak up for us,” said a NGO leader.
Some voices are raised for Subramaniam to be the candidate in Hulu Selangor but Subramaniam has promptly declined.
Many BN supporters are worried that if Palanivel is fielded and returns as successor, Samy Vellu would still be the power behind the throne because Palanivel is politically weak in the MIC.
“Samy Vellu’s rule will continue through Palanivel,” they say.
On the other hand if BN goes against Samy Vellu and fields a newcomer, it will have a very angry president and a very upset deputy to deal with.
If a newcomer is fielded — deputy Youth chief V Mugilan is a name that keeps cropping up — Samy Vellu and his supporters are likely to shut down the MIC machinery in Hulu Selangor and walk out of the by-election.
By agreeing to Palanivel as candidate, Datuk Seri Najib Razak does not want to strengthen or advance Samy Vellu’s interest or prolong his stay.
He wants Samy Vellu to retire honourably, hand over to a legitimate successor who can take the all the necessary action to infuse new blood and transform the MIC and revive its fortunes.
It’s all in Samy Vellu’s hands.
His departure and the succession question are the two key issues that are causing all the dissent.
The best help Samy can give himself, the party and the Indian community is to announce a firm departure date, and to appoint an acting president.