28 May 2006|
M.K Megan The New Straits Times
Embattled MIC deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam has assumed a brave front despite appearing the underdog in the coming ‘do or die’ contest for the post with Datuk G. Palanivel, who has party chief Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s open support, writes M.K. MEGAN.
THE challenger’s reticence on whether he will take him on for the deputy presidency in the party elections in July has Datuk S. Subramaniam perplexed.
Vice-president G. Palanivel has been said by all to be challenging Subramaniam though he has yet to declare himself a candidate.
Subramaniam, the beleaguered party veteran, said anyone could challenge him for the post "but Datuk Palanivel has remained silent and not announced his candidature so far".
"Party members can tell the difference between a candidate who has worked hard and silently and others who have not done enough."
The tension between the two top party leaders has been simmering beneath the surface since Subramaniam took on Samy Vellu in 1987 and lost by a narrow margin.
Since then, Subramaniam has suffered a series of setbacks, including being dropped as a party candidate in the last general election, a move that has affected his support in the party.
A deputy minister in several ministries before he was dropped, Subramaniam is confident that delegates will vote him in, again, based on his performance.
"I have noted that support for me has been consistently growing despite changes made to the manner in which delegates are elected.
"The mature and younger delegates from a cross-section of the party have shown support for me."
Q:Do you think Palanivel is worthy of the deputy president’s post?
A:There is nothing sacrosanct about the deputy president’s post. And I would consider anybody who wishes to stand for the post as a worthy candidate.
Q:Why are you defending your post after Samy Vellu’s obvious indication that he does not want you?
A:A deputy president is entrusted with the responsibility of acting in the absence of the president and generally assisting him. So, my primary role is to assist the president in any role, function or duty.
Any responsibility or trust entrusted to me has been fulfilled without fanfare or complaint.
I believe I have done it to the satisfaction of all. I have not opposed or obstructed any single programme or project.
There is so much still to be done in terms of national development, achieving the Vision 2020 concept and we are running out of time.
The Indian community must forge ahead and we have to double our efforts. I am ready to serve the people for as long as I am needed.
Q:Do you think it is right for Samy Vellu to support another candidate when you are the in*****bent?
A:I don’t have concerns over that. Everybody has a right to their preference. That is the essence of democracy. The important thing in an election is that it should not cause a split in the party or lead to disunity.
We must work together with everybody, whoever is the choice of delegates. Party members are mature enough to see for themselves and make the right choice. I extend my hand to anyone who wants to work together to improve the Indian community.
Q:Why have you fallen out of favour with Samy Vellu who has of late even questioned your loyalty to the party?
A:I really don’t want to get into a situation of saying things that may be misunderstood.
In fact, there is no basis to the (Samy Vellu’s) allegations. We are elected to represent the community. I have never obstructed any programme or project of the party, whether it is the brainchild of the president or decision of the party. Many party leaders have assured me of their continued support. MIC has no time to debate on matters of little consequence. We have so many challenges to overcome.
We must resist the temptation to react to irrationality. If we respond to these allegations, we will be distracted from doing our duty.
Q:But Samy Vellu has been accusing you of not supporting him as president?
A:Like I have always said, I will give my fullest co-operation to the party president for every programme and project undertaken by the party.
If I had been disloyal or a difficult person to work with, the delegates would not have continued to show confidence in me all these years.
We are elected not only to represent the MIC but also the Indian community, and contribute to the strength and unity of the party and community.
Q:You have been accused of not doing enough for the Indian community in your tenure as deputy president and as deputy minister.
A:This is not for me to say but everybody knows what I have done. I have carried out a conscientious job in representing the Indian community in my capacity as the deputy president of MIC and also as deputy minister in the various ministries.
I have assisted the party president in every way necessary. But this is not the time to rest on our laurels. We must look ahead, to face the future challenges and to learn from others.
Q:Samy Vellu has asked you recently to take him on for the party presidency.
A:I have been consistent in my plan and statement for more than a year that I will defend my position as deputy president.
In the last party general assembly, I said that I will defend my position.
The question of contesting the presidency has never arisen.
Q:How would you rate your chances of retaining your post?
A:I will only know the exact number of delegates on nomination day. I have not got the list.
Q:There were allegations that you were willing to spend a lot of money in the campaign for the deputy presidency.
A:In every election, we see unhealthy practices and wild allegations by those who feel threatened.
There is no reason for anybody to feel threatened.
Needless to say, I do not condone money politics of any kind. I wish to categorically say that I have never resorted to such practices.
Q:Are you teaming up with anybody else, like Datuk M. Muthupalaniappan, who is contesting for a vice-president’s post?
A:There are no teams. Let everybody campaign on their own. When the choice has been made by the delegates, I will work with them. That is democracy.
I will campaign for myself and if anybody wants to campaign for me I welcome it. All candidates are capable of campaigning for themselves. They are all party people.
It is not necessary to have groups. However, there is nothing wrong in having groups like the in*****bents (vice-presidents) who would want to campaign as a team. It will be a little more difficult for the newcomers, though.
But I will work with everybody who gets the support of the delegates and are elected.
I will respect the decision of the delegates. I will team up with the winning team.
Q:How do you rate your support among Barisan Nasional component party leaders?
A:My relationship with component party and government leaders has always been very strong because I have been with the BN for a long time.
I think I am the longest serving member of the BN central working committee. I have never had any problems with any of the component parties or BN leaders.
Q:What are your plans if you lose the elections?
A:I am an optimist. But one must learn to respect the wise decision of the people who voted. That is democracy.