IT is a tough decision to make — to determine which MIC crisis baffles me the most. The country’s largest and oldest Indian-based political party’s highly charged political drama has more episodes to it than American soap-opera The Bold and the Beautiful (which, by the way, has been running since March 1987).
Throughout the different leaderships, the MIC has been plagued with tumultuous scenarios like hunger strikes, chair throwing, coffin dragging and the more conventional court cases. In the 1970s and 1980s, when rival factions disagreed during meetings, chair and table throwing was said to be the norm. The more outrageous episodes ensued not long after when the late Tan Sri M.G. Pandithan who, in 1988, went on a “death fast” to prove his innocence against claims that he had practised caste-based politics.
This particular allegation was the root of his brawl with the then party president, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu. Pandithan also eerily brought along a coffin with him on his protest fast, staged at the party headquarters’ car park, signifying the “death of democracy” in MIC. That eventually got him and 13 of his supporters expelled. Such episodes are so perplexing to the point that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
In more recent times, the two warring factions — Datuk Seri G. Palanivel and acting president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam — seem to have trouble asserting who holds office. This dates back to the November 2013 party elections in Malacca, which has since been nullified following irregularities in the polls. The cracks deepened when both camps had opposing views towards the Registry of Societies’ (RoS) directive for the party to hold fresh elections.
Earlier this year, Datuk G. Kumaar Aamaan staged a hunger strike, reminiscent of Pandithan’s death fast, protesting against the RoS which refused to acknowledge his appointment as party secretary-general by then-president Palanivel. Initially vowing to continue “until his last breath”, Kumaar ended his strike just over 24 hours later at Palanivel’s request. Up till today, both camps have tried to outdo each other; holding their own central working committee (CWC) meetings, special assemblies and even two different party elections.
Palanivel had declared himself president when he “won unopposed” in a purported presidential nomination on Aug 9. The other faction’s presidential nomination is scheduled for today. Palanivel’s side has also tried to override the RoS’ directives in the five court cases it filed. They lost all five. But leadership tussle and conflicts are not unique to MIC, they happen to any political party or organisation. It is the struggle for power. Therein lies all the problems. “Having Teams A and B in any political party is standard political practice. (But) it is the manner in which both teams deal with challenges and party electoral results which determine the survivability and solidarity of the party,” said political analyst Associate Professor Sivamurugan Pandian.
“It is a normal struggle for power, them wanting to prove that they are right,” he added. The more obvious solution to this would be just to allow the re-election to run its course. If Palanivel and his supporters had agreed to the RoS directive, dated Dec 5, 2014, MIC would have been able to channel its energy on the development of the Indian community in the country instead. The Indian community has quite a hefty price to pay for the damage done through this power struggle. It had created unnecessary confusion and unwanted attention, both of which bring no good to either MIC or Barisan Nasional, as the ruling coalition.
Palanivel, the former natural resources and environment minister, needs to bite the bullet. He needs to let it go for the betterment of the party and the Indian community at large. Unlike MIC, the opposition has no platform to reach out to the Indian community. He needs to realise that MIC must quickly resolve its problems, buck up and go with BN in the next polls. As it stands, BN will need to pull all the strength and resources to face what would be a challenging 14th General Election. Dr Subramaniam is not yet out of the woods. Should he come out victorious and emerge the new MIC president, he has his work cut out for him and will need to rebuild the party that’s losing trust from its voters.
Once they are done with this internal polls, they will have about a year before they have to conduct their next elections, in 2016. Judging from the rate that they are going, drama will continue to unfold. Unless Palanivel and his supporters come to their senses and accept their fate, drama is inevitable. And when it does, in your head, you play director and scream solutions that seem so clear and so easy to do. You berate the scriptwriter for coming up with such nauseating storylines.
After each time, you tell yourself you’re fed up and won’t take another ridiculous plot, but you keep tuning in anyway because you just really need to know what happens next. I guess when there’s a twisted storyline, it’s easy to get yourself hooked. So expect more court cases, confusing statements and a hunger strike or two. It can’t possibly get any more theatrical than it has already been.
BY HANA NAZ HARUN, writer is an NST journalist