Hulu Selangor compromise lays foundation for Samy’s exit

By Baradan Kuppusamy (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — In backing down on his preferred choice for the Hulu Selangor by-election, MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu has set the stage for his eventual exit from politics.
The Malaysian Insider understands that the result of intense talks between Umno leaders and Samy Vellu is that the MIC president is likely to be made Ambassador-at-large for South Asian affairs and remain chairman of AIMST University when he finally calls it a day in a little over a year from now.
His preferred choice for Hulu Selangor — Datuk G Palanivel — will then take over the party’s reins ahead of the next general election. Palanivel is also understood to have been offered a deputy minister’s post in return for giving up the chance to be MP.
Barisan Nasional has settled on newcomer MIC Information chief P. Kamalanathan as its flag bearer in Hulu Selangor after a dramatic day of high tension negotiation yesterday Samy Vellu and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and through telephone calls between them and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Washington.
The upshot of the negotiation is that Samy Vellu (picture) was persuaded to dump his choice as candidate in favour of Kamalanathan who Umno/BN felt met the Hulu Selangor Barisan Nasional grassroots demand for a young, dynamic and new face in keeping with the changed political landscape.
Tied to the deal are other matters, sources said, like Samy Vellu’s retirement, the succession question and other longstanding issues like Maika Holdings.
Umno had campaigned for V. Mugilan but he was dropped during the negotiations.
Palanivel, 61, is the big loser in the short term along with Mugilan after Samy Vellu threatened to sack Mugilan if he was selected.
However Palanivel and Mugilan both told The Malaysian Insider that they are ready to bottle their disappointment and campaign for a BN victory in Hulu Selangor.
In one sense Umno and Samy Vellu both gave up their preferred candidates and agreed on a compromise in Kamalanathan.
The Tamil Nesan daily, speaking up for Samy Vellu today, rationalised the “loss” by saying in an editorial that politics was a topsy-turvy affair and that anything was possible.
“If ever anything is constant in politics, it is unexpected, dramatic changes. Politicians must always be prepared to accept dramatic changes and run with it,” the paper said in explaining how and why Palanivel was dropped in favour of Kamalanathan.
Palanivel, his aides said, was down but upbeat that the days of hard negotiations and grandstanding were over that what counts is for the MIC and BN to win the seat.
“I will campaign and work for Barisan victory,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Palanivel’s focus from now on is to win in the next general election and inherit the party presidency, his aides said.
“He is the deputy president and if he inherits the party from Samy Vellu whose days are numbered than everything else will follow, “a MIC leader said.
He has been offered as sweetener to play along — he will be made a senator and deputy minister.
It’s a formula that would appease Palanivel and calm the factions led by Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, the Human Resources minister, whose supporters feared Palanivel’s victory in Hulu Selangor would see Dr Subramaniam losing his minister’s post.
Samy Vellu, who has come under attack from MIC circles for allegedly selling-out Palanivel, is also “accommodated” for giving up Palanivel, BN sources said.
Samy Vellu’s retirement from politics and the handing over of the MIC to his successor is believed to be part of the discussion leading to the selection of Kamalanathan.
In time Samy Vellu is expected to give up the party president’s post and accept an appointment as Ambassador-at-Large for South Asia with ministerial rank.
He is expected to be also AMIST University chairman and the long standing issue among the Indian community — Maika Holdings — will likely see a dollar-for-dollar solution that would make shareholders happy.
“Probably by April next year in time for a new man at the head of the party facing the next general election,” said a BN source familiar with the negotiation, in giving a projection of when the party leadership transition would take place.
While this deal is not written in concrete and is subject to “variations” depending on how the political winds blows, by putting its foot down and calling Samy Vellu’s bluff, Umno has set a fresh course for MIC in a time of political turbulence.
No doubt some individuals, who had banked on Palanivel are disappointed and believe their ambitions are dashed.
But by biting the bullet now and not appeasing Samy Vellu, Umno has also given itself and BN a better chance to win back Hulu Selangor and prepare for the big battle ahead — the 13th general election.
The immediate task for the MIC and BN is to close ranks and win Hulu Selangor against PKR’s Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, a man of national stature but fighting to convince an electorate focused on bread and butter issues.
BN’s chances have improved considerably with Kamalanathan than if it had stuck with the unpopular Palanivel. He is younger, dynamic and speaks fluent Malay.
The shifting fortunes of politics has given him the opportunity to show his mettle.
But it still a tough fight ahead with the PKR pulling out all the stops to retain the seat and Pakatan Rakyat supremo Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim himself leading the campaign.