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Caste politics set to decide party polls

Contributed by Anonymous on Sunday, July 05 @ 10:24:52 CDT

Suganthi Suparmaniam, NST, Jul 05 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: Caste politics may be resurfacing in MIC for the first time in 20 years as party elections loom large on the horizon.

Members of lower castes appear to be consolidating themselves to throw their weight behind specific candidates in the race for the deputy presidency, three vice-presidencies and 23 central working committee (CWC) seats.

Sidelined for nearly two decades after the exit of Tan Sri G. Pandithan who formed the Indian Progressive Front, they want their rightful place in the party.

A group of nearly 40 delegates to the annual general assembly scheduled for Sept 12 recently met to discuss the direction they should take -- and the candidates they should support -- in the forthcoming elections.

With about 350 of the 1,500 delegates coming from the community, they are a force to be reckoned with.
A source familiar with the latest developments in the MIC said the group was serious about its intentions and going about them methodically.

"We believe we have between 300 and 350 votes from our community. We are in the midst of identifying them. We will then meet them in small groups of 50," he said.

It is understood that the group will soon identify whether they would support in*****bent Datuk G. Palanivel, former number two in the party, Datuk S. Subramaniam, or in*****bent vice-president Datuk S. Sothinathan for the deputy presidency.

In exchange for their support, they want an assurance that at least a member of their community will be a vice-president with several others represented in the CWC.

"We will support the deputy presidential candidate who can offer us the best deal," he added.

While they realise that party supremo Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu holds the cards when it comes to elections for top posts, candidates still need their support to make it across the finishing line.

This is especially so in light of the fact that Samy Vellu is not openly backing anyone for the deputy presidency and that one of the three candidates will need block votes from the community.

The most powerful caste in the party is the mukkalathur (Samy Vellu), gounder (Sothinathan and Subramaniam), muthaliar (Palanivel), with lesser representation by the chettiar and nadar.

A former party secretary-general said delegates from the community realised that they were a force in the party at this juncture as more than 20 per cent of delegates to the general assembly were from their ranks.

"They used to have about 40 per cent representation in the party but most left after Pandithan was expelled."

Pandithan was expelled as MIC vice-president on July 16, 1988, when he brought a coffin to party headquarters after learning he was to be sacked for indiscipline for allegedly practising caste politics.

In his reply to the show-cause letter issued to him, Pandithan denied the allegation, saying that he was merely championing the cause of the poor.

The MIC has always officially decried the use of the caste system in the party but the issue has always been there.

It has been reported that the 2006 party elections saw a list being distributed to delegates of the caste affiliation of MIC members of Parliament, state assemblymen and senators.

The message which the list tried to convey was that the party leadership was dominated by a certain caste and that several other castes, including the downtrodden had been marginalised.

The party leadership had denied such allegations, arguing that the MIC had always championed the cause of Indians and that caste had never figured in party politics.



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