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BN’s ‘headache’ in Sungai Siput

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SAMY VELUPETALING JAYA: The apparent weak MIC leadership is giving the Barisan Nasional a severe “headache”, especially in picking the party’s candidates to contest under the ruling coalition’s banner at the upcoming general election.

BN top leaders, sources reveal, are at their wits’ end in trying to solve the issue of seat allocation and one of their main worries is former president S Samy Vellu.

Samy Vellu, the former works minister and party president for nearly three decades, over the past week has been going around giving statements that he is a winnable candidate for the Sungai Siput seat, which he held from the early 1970s to 2008.

In 2008, he lost the seat by 1,800 votes to Pakatan Rakyat’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar, who was termed as a giant killer then. This ended his active political career and forced him to resign as president of the largest Indian-based political party in the country in 2009.

He was replaced by his hand-picked successor G Palanivel. Palanivel himself lost the Hulu Selangor parliamentary constituency at the 2008 general election. This seat was won back by MIC in a subsequent by-election by P Kamalanathan in 2010.

Palanivel failed to win the trust of the BN leadership, then, which did not regard him as a “winnable candidate”.

Samy Vellu, after his election defeat, was appointed special envoy to India and South Asia for infrastructure with ministerial status. On the political front, he was left in the wilderness until two months ago.

Making a comeback

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, during his visit to the constituency, had announced Samy Vellu’s appointment as BN coordinator for the seat. This move by Najib was to win back the seat.

“Najib thought that by appointing Samy Vellu, it would ensure the seat will come back to MIC and the BN. I do not think Najib wanted Samy Vellu as the candidate. It is normal to appoint a senior man to the post with the hope he would help a younger candidate win the seat,” said a BN source.

Then came the bombshell: just a few days ago, Samy Vellu announced that he was a “winnable” candidate.

“I am a winnable candidate, there is no doubt about it. I am willing to re-contest the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat. Internal sabotage led to my defeat there in 2008 [general election],” he was reported as saying.

The MIC veteran, however, conceded that it was the prerogative of the prime minister and BN chairman to decide the candidate for Sungai Siput.

Samy Vellu said he was ready to contest if the prime minister decided he was the right candidate for BN.

It must be noted that Samy Vellu was one of the factors, cited by observers and political pundits, which resulted in Indians turning their backs on the BN at the last election.

Now, a new problem has cropped up. While Samy Vellu has expressed his intention to contest the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat, Palanivel, sources said, has named party vice-president SK Devamany for the seat.

Devamany, who is Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, is the incumbent for the Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat. The seat is regarded by BN as safe.

Since Palanivel does not have a constituency, he has chosen to contest the Cameron Highlands seat and send Devamany down to Sungai Siput, which is relatively tougher to win.

Samy Vellu and Devamany are both tight-lipped when asked about the tussle.

“I have nothing to do with him [Devamany],” was Samy Vellu’s repeated reply when asked about the MIC vice-president.

He was clearly agitated when posed with the question by FMT yesterday.

Devamany, on the other hand, declined to comment, leaving his political fate in the hands of Najib.

Sources reveal that Devamany’s candidature has been endorsed by Najib.

The Sungai Siput parliamentary constituency with over 51,000 is made up of 40.2% Chinese voters, 36.3% Malays and 22.6% Indians.

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