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Palanivel's challenge

Contributed by Anonymous on Thursday, June 22 @ 21:16:18 CDT

MICTerence Fernandez, The Sun 23/06/06

DATUK G. PALANIVEL has been a busy man the past weeks, moving from Johor to the north regularly, campaigning for his bid to wrest the MIC deputy presidency from Datuk S.Subramaniam on Saturday (June 24, 2006).

"You think it is as easy as that-ah? I have been given a government position only for the last 10 years but the in*****bent was in the government for more than 20 years.

"He should have used the government to serve the people and show that record now," said Palanivel, 57, the Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister.

Palanivel reminded Subramaniam that the latter was not caught off guard.

"My name was announced more than 10 months ago. I think he (Subramaniam) was harping on and hoping for another no-contest term. "He (Subra) thinks the post of Deputy President should not be challenged."

"MIC needs leaders who can deliver. Although we are trying to become self-reliant, the community, due to its socio-economic background, will have to continue to depend on the government for many services and facilities.

"Datuk Subra has been dropped from the government a few times. There must be reasons for it. Once, after being elected as the Damansara MP in 1974, he was defeated in the following general election by Dr V. David," said Palanivel, explaining that due to this, the MIC lost a Parliamentary representation and Subramaniam, his Deputy Minister's post.

"Indians have very few seats in Parliament and therefore must work hard to ensure that we don't lose what we have. Such is the responsibility of leaders."

A former press secretary to party president and Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, Palanivel insists he is his own man and not a conduit in Samy Vellu's greater plan of finishing off Subramaniam once and for all.

He does not hide his aversion to suggestions that he will win simply because of the open support by the party president.

He reminded everyone - Subramaniam included - that when vice-president Datuk S.S. Subramaniam challenged S. Subramaniam for the Number Two post over a decade ago, Samy Vellu had backed his deputy.

"Datuk S.S.Subramaniam was chased out of campaign meetings in the presence of Datuk Subra. An MIC vice-president was chased out of the hall!

"There were no complaints then. Why? So when it suits your convenience it's OK, is that it?"

With due respect to Subramaniam's 24 years as deputy president, Palanivel tells delegates that the party needs a "performing" deputy.

Samy Vellu's support aside, Palanivel is confident that delegates when casting their ballot, will have it at the back of their minds that he has gone beyond the call of duty to serve.

"They know I have walked the extra mile time and again," he said.

Palanivel also elaborated on what he meant in this month's Off The Edge interview when he said a person who has been in a position for too long becomes less sensitive to the needs of the people - a statement that Subramaniam took offence to.

"I have made a clear reference between a performing leader and a non-performing leader and how people are intelligent enough to know the difference and make their choices. That is democracy.

"You will see how Samy Vellu has been keeping himself relevant and how he has been constantly reinventing himself and the party."

Palanivel said for a party like the MIC, everyone who holds a position has to be a contributional leader. "As a small community, the MIC, especially the Indians at large, must have strong leaders who have the heart of the community at all times.

"Otherwise, we can suffer great losses in the future. Can we afford that?

"I believe that I am relevant to the times. I have the experience, the track record and the passion to serve," he said.

On his chances to unseat the long-time No.2 in*****bent, Palanivel said: "In the MIC, voting is not by states for us to gauge our support. I have always regarded the entire MIC as my field and I have not been parochial or clique-orientated in my approach.

"I think members, particularly delegates, are open-minded enough to know that the party is above other sentiments and know what is good for the party."

Unlike for Subramaniam, a loss in the elections will not be "the be-all-and-end-all" to Palanivel's political career.

The buzz is that a consolation prize of party secretary-general is almost certain.

This confidence of political continuity is probably reflected in his response when asked about his expectations.

"Fear is not one of my traits. I do not have any fear for any sort of outcome."

"The delegates have seen me over the years and have come to know me through my work, through the numerous programmes I have conscientiously carried out. I am sure they will make the right decision."

It's Samy's choice for MIC delegates
Zainon Ahmad The Sun

"I don't want to support any team, because whatever team I support will win," said Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu when he was asked about three weeks ago which World Cup team he favours.

He said he knows very little about the tournament and much less about the participating teams but he thinks Argentina may make it to the finals.

But talk about MIC politics and Samy Vellu, party president for almost three decades, will say almost without hesitation that his man Datuk G. Palanivel will oust Datuk S. Subramaniam, his long time deputy - and only rival.

It is as if he knows already the outcome of Saturday's party elections. And why not? After all, he not only controls the party machinery, not only holds all the cards but he is also the de facto campaign manager for Palanivel and the rest of his team.

Also as president since 1978, when some of its members were not even born, he had the advantage of knowing almost everyone and had also written much of the ground rules.

Argentina may or may not make it to the finals but if "whatever team I support will win" applies to his team many in the party and MIC watchers outside are convinced that it is not an empty boast.

The master politician, already happily ensconsed in his presidential chair after he was unopposed last year (2005), has been busy cranking up support for his chosen ones. In the past, delegates mostly voted as he told them to.

But unlike in the past, when Subramaniam's name headed the list of the favoured ones and the ones he must support for political or other reasons, this time - for the first time in a long while - a new name is at the top.

Thus, the big story about the MIC elections this time is whether most of the delegates will still vote as their president tells them to, knowing that by so doing they will lose a familiar face - now being portrayed as that of a patient Laxamanan, or whether many more will join the ranks of the rebels.

It is not so much about vice-president Palanivel, the president's loyal acolyte, challenging the in*****bent deputy president. As a loyalist he will do whatever the president tells him to. And he has been told that he will win.

Samy Vellu, who had tolerated Subramaniam after he came close to edging him out in 1989, decided some time ago, especially after the deputy president survived a challenge in 1994, that the man must not inherit the party.

Gradually, the deputy president began losing his powers and he was much isolated in the central working committee of the party. In keeping true to his pledge not to challenge the president ever again after 1989, Subramaniam simply settled down to wait.

After a while his patience caused party members, especially his supporters, to ask him whether there was nothing else he could do other than growing old playing Job. Only then did he begin to move.

Samy Vellu saw the signs and decided he had to finish off Subramaniam. An opportunity to further clip whatever influence Subramaniam had left presented itself when a change occurred in the country's leadership in 2003.

When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for the general election in March 2004, Samy Vellu did not nominate his deputy as a candidate.

Deprived of a government post - he was a deputy minister - Subramaniam's public profile diminished significantly. And then the process of intimating - by drips and drabs - to MIC members and the public that the president was considering a new number two began.

The stage of half-denials followed before Samy Vellu, ever the inveterate and master politician, finally removed his mask and announced publicly what most people had already expected.

By which time everything was already in place to ensure that Subramaniam's political life is snuffed out completely. He must be edged out as otherwise Samy Vellu will be in trouble in the next presidential election.

Typical of Subramaniam, he is fighting back by mostly harping on "I am not challenging anyone but merely defending my position as deputy president".

Another refrain of his, which may yet go down as another classic, is "I waited patiently but this is what has happened" a reference to Samy Vellu's decision to replace him with Palanivel.

But what else can he do besides going around the country knocking on the delegates' doors. And he is not known to be rich.

There are many who want to help him - not because they truly like him but because they think Samy Vellu had overstayed - but then most of them are outside the party.

"But they are Indians and if they go all out to persuade the delegates to thumb their noses at Samy Vellu, Subramaniam may yet retain his position and a chance to mount a campaign against the president in two years - it is his only chance," said a Tamil newspaper editor.



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