23 Jun 2006 The New Straits Times
By M. K. Megan and V. Vasudevan
KUALA LUMPUR: With just a day to go before tomorrow’s party polls, the much-anticipated contest for the MIC deputy president’s post may well turn out to be an anti-climax.
In*****bent Datuk S. Subramaniam is up against the entire MIC.
He has no government post to start with, unlike his challenger Datuk G. Palanivel, who is Hulu Selangor MP and Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development.
Palanivel is also backed by formidable party chief and mentor Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who has been pounding home the importance of a deputy who could work with him.
However, despite this, both camps have expressed confidence.
This is how both sides have worked the delegate arithmetic:
Subramaniam, 61, having been deputy president for almost 24 years, is believed to have the solid support of about 25 per cent of the delegates.
Palanivel, 56, newer in MIC politics, is said to be confident of the support of about 20 per cent of the delegates. He is said to be banking on Samy Vellu to swing about 30 per cent of the votes in his favour.
Subramaniam’s advantage, if it can be called that, is that he may garner about five per cent of the remaining 25 per cent in sympathy votes.
He has been pitching himself as an underdog being made to suffer by the president for the ills he was supposed to have inflicted on the party, the community and its leader.
Another five per cent of the delegates may not like Samy Vellu and Palanivel and decide to vote for Subramaniam.
A delegate said Subramaniam could amass at most about 40 per cent of the 1,441 votes.
He pointed out that Subramaniam has been aggressively stumping for votes among delegates — not at any gatherings but door-to-door, a strategy adopted by Samy Vellu when he beat Subramaniam for the deputy’s post in 1977.
Subramaniam said the delegates were upset about the current developments in the party.
He added there had been instances of "intimidation" taking place.
"I hope the delegates will be sensitive enough and use the truth as the weapon to elect the deputy president based on his sincerity and honesty.
"I have explained and appealed to the delegates to choose a team for the party and have emphasised that no one is more important than the MIC."
Palanivel, however, could not stump door-to-door simply because he had to attend to his constituency and ministerial responsibilities.
He, however, has become more critical of his rival in recent days.
"We are just consolidating our support and driving home our message to call for performance-based leadership and not to support seat- warmers and non-performing leaders. There is a groundswell," he said.
Subramaniam has also alleged dirty tactics, which Samy Vellu brushed aside.
"He can allege anything he wants. I don’t care," was all the party president had to say.
Palanivel, however, seems unperturbed.
"I am focused on my campaigning and am confident of winning."
His supporters claim Palanivel could land between 800 and 1,000 of the 1,441 votes.
An against-the-odds victory for Subramaniam would send a strong message to Samy Vellu, who has been at the helm for 27 years, to make way.
However, If Palanivel lives up to expectations and wins, a new deputy president will emerge and eventually take over the party.
While the party’s deputy presidential race is too close to call, vice-presidential candidates Datuk S. Sothi- nathan, Datuk S. Veerasingam and Tan Sri K.S. Nijhar are seen as sure bets.
Nijhar, seen as the weakest link among the president’s three men simply because he is non-Tamil, has gained some ground lately with an imaginative manifesto outlining his plan for the community.
Among others, he talks of small business loans for more than 6,000 Indians and securing medical seats for 100 Indian students at Indonesian universities.
Some observers say Sothinathan, who gained popularity after the Crimea State University saga, and well-liked Veerasingam would have no problems making the cut.
An observer said that realistically, the only challengers to the president’s vice-presidential team are Datuk V.K.K. Teagarajan or Datuk M. Muthupalaniappan.
Teagarajan is confident of finishing second if not tops in the seven-cornered fight.
"The last spot is going to be either Sothinathan or Nijhar," he predicted.
A delegate from Selangor said he was sure of voting for Sothinathan and Veerasingam but had yet to decide between Teagarajan and Muthupalaniappan.
This indecisiveness could work to Nijhar’s advantage, as it would split the votes for Teagarajan and Muthupalaniappan.
The other two candidates for the veep race, Alex Thiagarasan and E. Yohevel, are seen as lightweights.
As for the 23 CWC committee posts, it is all systems go. There is no assurance the president-endorsed candidates would win as in previous elections.
There are equally credible candidates on the "independent" list. Many surprises are expected. There are 28 independent candidates, bringing the total to 51 candidates vying for 23 posts.