DATUK S. Subramaniam was a forlorn figure when MIC elections steering committee chairman Datuk K. Vijayanathan announced the results of the party elections. After 25 years as the MIC deputy president, possibly the longest ever number two in a political party, he was voted out in a manner that did not reflect his contributions to the party and community.
This was an unprecedented event in Malaysian political history with the president turning out to be a “one-man demolition squad” to get his deputy, whom he couldn’t work with, out of the way once and for all.
The thumping 438-majority clearly showed that the 1,441 delegates agreed with the president.
With the neutrality of a president, which is the norm, thrown out of the window, this result was somewhat expected although there were a group of hardcore Subra supporters wanting the in*****bent to win to check the absolute power enjoyed by the president.
But anyone could have told them that it was wishful thinking, considering the power wielded by Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu in the party and his demigod image among his supporters.
To be fair, he had worked hard for it and earned it. It did not fall on his lap. Subra would have been naive if he had actually thought he could have warded off Samy Vellu's strong campaign.
The result as many members and even delegates felt, was not a victory for the new deputy Datuk G. Palanivel. It was a clear victory for the MIC supremo who had been trying to get the proverbial thorn out of his flesh for more than two decades.
The winner’s gratitude was clearly seen when he walked out of the counting centre in the PWTC and hugged his boss, breaking down.
Going on a nationwide roadshow to tell the delegates that he wanted his deputy thrown out would be unthinkable in any other party. But it has worked in the MIC as Samy Vellu obviously knows the thinking of his supporters like the back of his hands.
He had on several occasions tried to lure Subra into challenging him for the top post, knowing pretty well that it was an invitation into the lion’s den.
While some felt that it would have been a more honourable exit for the cool Subra, the man himself did not go for it as he had harboured hopes of winning.
Samy Vellu’s tagline of “a vote for my team means a vote for me” had sent a clear message to the delegates that if Palanivel loses, there would be difficult times in the party.
The campaign arguments ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous and at times made some wonder if certain MIC leaders were clamouring to help the community or were merely jostling for positions of power.
“But just like any other polls campaigns, personalities override issues. Most of them forget the contributions and sacrifices made by leaders and go for rhetoric and the leader of the day. With the president saying in no uncertain terms that he wanted Subra out, none of his supporters would have wanted to vote for him.
“If he had remained neutral and left it to the choice of delegates which any president will normally do, Subra may have had a reasonably good chance of retaining his post,” said a branch leader who is aligned to the president.
A staunch Subra supporter described the president’s call to delegates that certain old parts had to be replaced in the MIC engine as a weak argument. He said Samy Vellu himself was 70 while one of the vice-presidents he had endorsed was Tan Sri K. S. Nijhar, also 70.
The fact is Samy Vellu had to “unseat” Subra at any cost, said a party member. He said the president did not want to take any chances, like having a situation where his deputy, whom he claims was not service-oriented, is forced to take over the reins of the party in the event of any unforeseen cir*****stances.
“If that happens, you will see a mainly new MIC leadership with Samy Vellu’s hardcore supporters counting their days in the party. Subra will have to reward his loyalists who had remained with him all the rough moments,” he said.
For Subra, it could well be the end of his political career, falling to the Samy Vellu juggernaut at his third attempt.
He had his political life resurrected twice in the past but this is the death knell. Although he is still the Seputeh division chairman and could go for posts in the 2009 elections, nobody would take him seriously at 64 and being out of the party mainstream.
To put in a nutshell, it was a proxy fight and Samy Vellu simply had to win and show his Barisan Nasional colleagues that he is still relevant and needed by the community.
Obviously he wanted Palanivel to win by a huge margin to thumb his nose at his detractors both in and outside the party and tell them that he is still in charge.
And Samy Vellu succeeded as the 438-vote majority is huge. Whatever factionalism left in the party is expected to vanish after this.
This win has further tightened his grip on the party and indications are that he will be at the helm for many more years.
The near clean sweep of all other posts shows that MIC members still want him to lead the party with some saying Samy Vellu is indispensable.