Although Datuk Seri G. Palanivel is the MIC president, he has to live under the shadow cast by his predecessor Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu whose combative style differs greatly from his successor’s more meticulous way of doing things.
THE MIC ground is roiled by an interview that Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu gave to Sunday Star where he spoke on a broad range of subjects.
The interview was picked up by vernacular Tamil newspapers, which focused on the former MIC president’s regrets in battling his former deputy Tan Sri S. Subramaniam.
The newspapers also gave front-page treatment to the regrets he expressed in promoting current president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.
“I brought a man from nowhere. I built him; I gave him courage. I made him a deputy because at that time, we were fighting with Subramaniam,” he said in the interview.
“Now, I realise there was no reason for the fight (with Subramaniam) ... I presented him (Palanivel) to the whole country wherever I went.
“Why did people select Palanivel – because he has Samy Vellu’s face, not for anything else! I did all the work and promoted him. He became president. From the day he took over as president, I have nothing to do with MIC. He doesn’t talk to me much or call me,” Samy Vellu said.
Answering a question, Samy Vellu said he does not call Palanivel because he (Samy Vellu) was (now) an ordinary man.
“How can I call such a big man?” he asked, tongue-in-cheek. “The only time they call me is for the (MIC) conference. I go and sit there like a fool, and come back.
“I never open my mouth and say anything because he is the president,” he added.
Although he says he can’t interfere in MIC affairs, he has interfered simply because he is Samy Vellu.
There is little doubt that he is still the MIC’s “Big Daddy” and anything he says and does causes ripples in the party that he had beaten into shape during his three decades at the helm.
Although Palanivel is the president, he has yet to escape the huge shadow cast by Samy Vellu and his style of politics which deeply understands the Tamil psyche.
“In the last party election (November 2013), Palanivel sought to bring his own team into power by forming an alliance with Subramaniam’s supporters who were long ostracised under Samy Vellu,” said a retired former MIC vice-president.
The election results showed delegates returned a team of leaders with mixed loyalties.
While the majority were Palanivel’s men, a substantial portion were leaders owing loyalty to Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam and Samy Vellu’s kinsmen, like youth leader Sivaraj Chandran and vice-president Datuk M. Saravanan.
The opposing faction that lost the election is disputing the results and has gone to the Registrar of Societies, alleging many irregularities.
As it stands, Palanivel has said he will retire when his term expires in 2016, as part of a plan brokered by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. But there are some in the MIC who are impatient and fear he might stay on longer.
Palanivel made sure that Dr Subramaniam was elected as deputy, as part of the plan, while giving a free rein to the vice-president and central working committee (CWC) contests.
While his men dominate the CWC, there are other winners at higher levels who owe loyalties elsewhere.
Samy Vellu’s statement, therefore, comes as a balm to the faction waiting in the wings to take over the MIC.
His statement that he had “brought up Palanivel from nowhere” echoes exactly their own feelings about Palanivel who they see as too much into religion and prayers and less into running the party.
The MIC has not gotten used to the different style of leadership that Palanivel exemplifies – they are still used to the roaring patronage-style of Samy Vellu who scolds, hugs and sings songs and publicly disciplines members.
Palanivel on the other hand is more methodical, orderly and meticulous.
Palanivel’s supporters in the MIC want Samy Vellu to stop meddling in MIC business and focus on his new job as business envoy to South Asia.
“He shouldn’t lambast Palanivel because the new president was handpicked by Samy Vellu himself,” said a CWC member.
“We don’t want to get into a war with him because we know how it would go.
“Ideally, Samy Vellu should be an elder statesmen, winning respect from all factions,” he added.
But still Samy Vellu is allowed his occasional diatribe, which is what he has done in the interview. It is his right.
Palanivel is the president and he should concentrate on running the party and pay less attention to the rantings of his old friend who is unlikely to become his nemesis at his age.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.