The decisive defeat suffered by MIC/Barisan Nasional in Bukit Selambau on Tuesday signals the end of the road for party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s political career after he had ignored strong advice from Umno leaders to walk away.
Instead, Samy had led the MIC campaign from the front, turning off Indian voters with the constant refrain that he has done great things for the Indian community.
The community had clearly rejected him on several occasions – first in the November 25 2007 protest, then in boycotting the Thaipusam festivities at Batu Caves in 2008 and finally at the polls on March 8, 2008.
Despite such overt rejection, Samy had refused to step down but instead went on a “rebranding” exercise of the battered party which even his former loyalists now say was a futile exercise.
“What the party needs is a new leader, a new face, a new vision and new hope,” said Datuk M. Muthupalaniappan, the man who mounted a challenge against Samy last month but was disqualified from contesting by allegedly foul means.
“The defeat of the MIC once again tells us that the MIC needs new leadership,” Muthupalaniappan told The Malaysian Insider.
Another retired MIC leader who did not want to be named said Samy must acknowledge the voter rejection and hand over power in the MIC immediately.
“It has got to be now…not next week, not next month or next year. It has got to be now,” he said.
Samy had led the often rough campaign in Bukit Selambau using MIC youth members and other outsiders to browbeat the PKR in the hope of regaining the upper hand but the methods backfired as PKR candidate S. Manikumar trounced Samy’s handpicked candidate Datuk G. Ganesan.
Samy had been campaigning well before nomination day and believed he had a head start.
“His hope was to win in Bukit Selambau and ride that victory to make a comeback but all that is now a pipedream,” a former aide of Samy said.
He even had MIC division chiefs to raise hopes in his Tamil Nesan daily that after “victory” Samy should be appointed senator and returned as minister in the new cabinet to be announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“He has no plans to hand over the party any time soon,” the former aide said. “He is going to come back with a new scheme.”
“Umno leaders have to press Samy to hand over the party because there is nobody in the MIC or in the Indian community who can do it – persuade Samy to leave,” the former aide said.
Samy, who lost his Sungei Siput parliamentary seat in the March 2008 general election, was “re-elected” MIC president for a 11th term last month and immediately announced this was his last term as president.
He has promised to hand over the party leadership to his deputy but since he can legally stay as president until 2013, the timing of his eventual retirement is still unclear.
In the MIC elections to be held this September, the focus will be on the deputy president’s post with three likely contestants – former deputy Datuk S. Subramaniam, incumbent Datuk G. Palanivel and aspiring candidate S. Sothinathan.
Party insiders said Samy would manoeuvre to get his man elected so he can remain the power behind the MIC throne.
The question is who will he choose as his candidate.