Both the leaders filed their nominations at the MIC headquarters here this morning, with Palanivel submitting his nomination papers at about 10.30am, followed by Subramaniam at 11am.
The challenge by Palanivel is the strongest faced by Subramaniam, 62, since becoming the party's deputy president in 1981.
Palanivel, 57, who is Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, is MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu's choice for the post.
Last last year, the MIC supremo openly announced that he preferred Palanivel to become his deputy. Samy Vellu had alleged that Subramaniam had on numerous occasions tried to undermine his leadership and that his long-time deputy had tried to sabotage him.
The last time Subramaniam faced stiff contest was in 1997, when the then vice-president, Datuk S. S. Subramaniam, challenged him for the poast and lost.
Speaking to reporters after filing his nomination, Subramaniam issued a stern warning to his adversaries that he would not tolerate any false allegations in the run-up to the polls.
"I will not keep quiet if anyone makes any unfounded or false allegations against me. I'm ready to defend myself and will even take legal action against them," he said.
Commenting on claims by certain quarters that if he became the MIC chief, Indian Progressive Front (IPF) president Datuk M.G. Pandithan would take control of the MIC, he said this sort of allegation was unfounded and baseless.
The IPF is a splinter party of the MIC and Pandithan was a vice-president before being sacked from the MIC in 1989 for acting against the interest of the party.
"This is a wild allegation and I have been asked by lawyers to send a notice (to the person) to take court action. I will also refer the matter to the MIC central working executive council and to the disciplinary board," he said.
Sounding confident, Subramaniam, said he would meet the 1,387 divisional delegates who would vote in the election to clarify allegations made against him by certain quarters.
Over the past few months Samy Vellu had repeatedly said that Subramaniam, better known as Subra in party circles, was using two Tamil newspapers to attack the party leadership. This had been denied by Subramaniam.
The party chief had also claimed that he had proof that Subramaniam was a major shareholder of one of the two papers, which was also denied by Subramaniam.
"I will step up the tempo of my campaign and will explain to delegates the unfounded allegations levelled at me openly and behind closed doors. Earlier there was some shred of (suspicion) but now my supporters understand the real situation," he said.
MIC nominations ... and the heat is on
Baradan Kuppusamy Malaysiakini
Jun 4, 06 5:24pm
special report One of the biggest battles in MIC’s 60-year history began immediately after nominations closed at noon today.
President S Samy Vellu warned ‘outsiders’ not to stick their noses into MIC affairs while his estranged deputy S Subramaniam threatened legal action to protect his reputation which he said is under attack by his opponent.
Candidates began campaigning immediately after filing their nominations. Rival factions strung up banners, posters and placards all around the MIC building in Kuala Lumpur and along roads leading to the nomination centre.
The June 24 election promises to be a hotly contested affair.
“My opponents are tarnishing my name saying if I win the deputy president’s contest, I will bring IPF (Indian Progressive Front) into MIC and they would take over the leadership. They say I am warming my seat, that I stabbed people in the back and that I am useless,” said Subramaniam.
“I will go all out to the grassroots to fight this campaign. I will not hesitate to take legal action," he added after filing his nomination papers at exactly 11.01am.
Earlier, Subramaniam prayed at the Pudu Pillayar Temple and was told that 11.01 was an auspicious time. He also drew ‘number 1' in the balloting which his supporters said is also auspicious.
But the majority of the 2,000 MIC members who thronged the head office today are clearly with challenger G Palanivel
who filed his papers at 10am to shouts of ‘Long Live Palanivel’.
Earlier, he had prayed at the Sri Ayyanareeswarar temple in Jalan Genting Klang where he has been praying for 28 over years, before heading to the nomination center.
“My work is my campaign. We are not running down anybody. I have been hard at work for many years. I am not campaigning today to ask for a free vote. I ask delegates to decide on the basis of my work and the party’s achievement,” he told reporters who mobbed him after the nomination.
“See you on June 24,” he said.
'Smell of blood in the air'
As a supporter of Palanivel and because he is leading an ‘official’ line-up of candidates, Samy Vellu for once took a backseat.
But at a press conference later, the president blew his top describing IPF leader MG Pandithan, who earlier this week urged Samy Vellu to resign, as a “longkang (drain) politician”.
“I have heard his garbage for 27 years, he is useless,” Samy Vellu said when asked his reactions to Pandithan’s statement. “IPF has dropped into the drain ... Pandithan tak boleh pakai (cannot be used).”
The president said he has taken six days off to take his ‘official’ candidates on a tour of the country to meet delegates.
“I will open my campaign salvo soon,” he said. “We will see then what happens.”
The number of candidates vying for the post came as a surprise to many MIC leaders and members.
“The candidates sense this is the time for change and feel many in*****bents might fall. They smell blood in the air,” said a veteran MIC leader.
A total of 63 candidates are vying for 27 posts at different levels turning the contest into a gala affair. It took almost an hour for the contestants to pick their ballot numbers.
A 64th candidate arrived, caused a small commotion outside the MIC headquarters, filed his papers to contest a seat in the Central Working Committee (CWC) and left almost unnoticed.
V Govindaraj, who was sacked as an appointed CWC member last week, filed his papers and gave a short lecture on human rights and democracy in the party.
His papers were rejected because he is not one of the 1,387 registered delegates in the voters list.
Govindaraj said he would take “all measures” necessary to ensure that his rights as a MIC member was protected. He did not exclude legal action.
The deputy president’s post is a straight fight between in*****bent Subramaniam, 64, who has been deputy for 25 years and challenger Palanivel, 54, who became vice-president in 1994.
It is a seven-way fight for the three vice-president post. S Veerasingham and KS Nijhar are the in*****bents and they are joined by newcomer S Sothinathan, the MIC secretary general.
The trio form the official line-up and are challenged by business tycoon VKK Teagarajan, former vice-president M Muthupalaniappan, assemblyperson E Yohavel and newcomer Klang division chief Alex Teagarajan.
Muthupalaniappan, a perennial contender, knows the MIC ground well but one delegate asked: “Why should we vote for him again? He wins and disappears and reappears three years later.”
A wave of sympathy helped Muthupalaniappan win in 1994 but that feeling was hard to see this time around
For tycoon Teagarajan this is his first shot at a vice-president’s post. The whole of today he was seen hanging around Samy Vellu.
“He is trying to tell voters he is a Samy Vellu man. He avoids Subramaniam like a plague,” one MIC member remarked.
Teagarajan’s free wheeling ways will come as a minus point as delegates weigh whether to kick-out one in the ‘official line-up’ and bring in an outsider.
The talk is that Nijhar is the weak point in the ‘official’ line-up for the vice-presidency but Nijhar is also the person who works the hardest to get elected.
“He is improving his chances by the hour with the huge effort he is putting in to meet delegates, thump shoulders and remind voters of his contributions,” party insiders said.
Veerasingham scored the highest votes in the last contest but again delegates are asking, “Should we return you again with the highest votes?”
Veerasingham was considered as a possible successor to Samy Vellu and as a possible candidate to fight Subramaniam.
But that is all over and the big question mark now is where Veerasingham is heading now that an official challenger in Palanivel had been nominated for the deputy president’s post.
CWC - 'It's a circus'
Sothinathan, trusted by Samy Vellu with financial matters, is the unfamiliar fish in the pond.
As secretary-general he is unpopular for some of the measures he has taken. He is also abrasive.
His dealings with the MIC rank and file were, in the words of a party veteran, consist of “sharp edges.”
“Delegates who had to deal with him remember him unkindly,” he said.
But Samy Vellu wants the newcomer elected and reminded delegates that Sothinathan had fought for the MIC and president’s interests. Sothi as he is called was suspended from parliament for three months for defending the president over the controversy involving the Crimea University medical degrees.
As a result he is a minor celebrity and this should carry him in the contest, sources said.
“He suffered for us. You should remember that,” Samy Vellu reminded delegates at the Johor MIC convention last month.
It is a free-for-all for the Central Working Committee seats with 52 aspirants contesting for the 23 available posts.
“It is a circus,” said a former CWC member. “They just sit in the CWC meetings and listen to Samy Vellu tell stories...the only time they open their mouths is when they reach for the vadai (a popular Indian snack).”