Subramaniam is vying to be deputy president in a three-cornered
fight and has fielded a line-up of his supporters in a faceoff with the
“official line-up” of party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, the
first time he has ever done so.
Wearing his trademark red, short sleeved shirt, the bespectacled Subramaniam greeted The Malaysian Insider
team with a big grin at his home in the leafy Section 16 neighbourhood of Petaling Jaya near here.
Pushing 65 and yet nary a grey hair on his head or moustache, nor a wrinkle on his face and hands. What is his secret?
“A gift from the gods,” said Subramaniam. He jumped to the occasion to rib Samy Vellu, his arch political rival for 30 years.
“You know one reason he (Samy Vellu) is always upset with me is my youthful appearance.
“He refers to me as mapillai (groom) or Indran’s son in a negative
way,” Subramaniam said, his longstanding grievances welling up easily
as the interview starts.
“I am not just fighting two opponents for the deputy president’s
post… there is a third candidate and that’s Samy Vellu,” he said. “I am
fighting Samy and his candidate (Datuk G. Palanivel) and another (Datuk
“He should not interfere… there should be a free and fair election,”
Subramaniam said, adding that “there is a groundswell in the MIC for a
“If the balloting is fair and the counting above board I stand a
good chance to win along with my line up,” he said in urging the
election committee headed by Datuk K. Vijayanathan to ensure that the
voting is fair and free from any pressure and interference.
Subramaniam, who first joined the MIC in 1962 and was later
appointed the party’s executive secretary and secretary general, was
deputy president of the party since 1981 until he lost the post to
Palanivel in 2006.
In that contest, Subramaniam lost by 438 votes to Palanivel who was
strongly supported by Samy Vellu. Like now, the contest then was also
seen as a Samy Vellu versus Subramaniam contest, with Palanivel tagging
This time, however, there is a spoiler in the form of Sothinathan, a
former Samy Vellu protégé who insisted on running despite advice from
Samy Vellu to step back.
Sothinathan and Subramaniam are both from the gounder caste, whose
members number about 400 in the party and have always stood by
Subramaniam in good and bad times.
There is fear in Subramaniam’s camp that Sothinathan might split the
gounder votes but recent developments show, Subramaniam supporters
said, Sothinathan’s contest is eating into Samy Vellu’s vote bank
meaning the more votes he gets, the fewer votes Palanivel will secure.
With the votes split three ways, Subramaniam is hoping to secure enough votes to win as deputy president.
“There is a cry for change in the party and the Indian community,” Subramaniam told The Malaysian Insider.
“We cannot ignore this rising demand for change, for a new leadership and for new hope.”
“I see this contest as the final chance for democracy in MIC,” he
said. “If delegates let this opportunity go there is no future for the
party or for the Indian community.”
MIC insiders claim the issue remains Samy Vellu’s reluctance to relinquish his hold on the party. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Subramaniam’s line-up for the three vice-president’s posts and 23
vacancies in the Central Working Committee (CWC) win, it would also
give him control of the party.
Winning a majority in the CWC is the key to force changes in the
party starting with the ouster of Samy Vellu, who has vowed to stay
until 2013 despite entreaties and pressure from the Barisan Nasional to
call it a day.
According to MIC insiders, his arrogant and divisive leaders, long
tenure, the collapse of Maika Holdings, as well as the sacking and
expulsion of numerous grassroots leaders have combined to drive the
Indian community into the arms of the Pakatan Rakyat. “Subramaniam
offers the one chance for change, for renewal and for new hope,” former
MIC vice-president and Samy Vellu loyalist Tan Sri G. Pasamanicam said.
“We have to give Subramaniam a chance,” he told The Malaysian Insider
“He can unite the party, bring back all the expelled members and
regenerate the party as the real representative of the Indian
Like Pasamanicam, other veterans are coming out of the woodwork to give their open support to Subramaniam.
“The issue is not Subramaniam or Palanivel but Samy Vellu,” said
another former vice-president Datuk V. Govinderaj. “The issue is why
Samy Vellu is still hanging on after 30 years in power. He is the
problem, he is the obstacle… he must go.”
“Voting for Samy Vellu’s line-up would only propagate Samy Vellu’s
grip on power… he will continue and that’s the end of the MIC,” he said
in comments published by the Makkal Osai Tamil daily this week.