By Baradan Kuppusamy
KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — It has been decided that an MIC candidate will be fielded as Barisan Nasional’s (BN) candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election, following discussions between Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu yesterday.
But MIC sources say that it remains uncertain if party deputy president Datuk G Palanivel — who lost the seat in Election 2008 when he was an incumbent — will be the man chosen to represent BN.
The Malaysian Insider understands that Najib, the BN chairman, has asked MIC to submit three names for the by-election.
Hulu Selangor was originally an Umno seat but given to MIC to contest in 1990. It is a largely Malay constituency with significant numbers of Indian and Chinese voters.
Palanivel first won the seat in 1990 and held it until he lost to PKR’s Datuk Zainal Abidin by just 198 votes in the 2008 polls.
Numerous undercurrents both in Umno and MIC questioned Palanivel’s eligibility as candidate for the by-election which both BN and Pakatan Rakyat see as a crucial contest.
Both coalitions feel that going into the 13th general election with a victory in Hulu Selangor would enhance their standing.
Some quarters in BN feel a young, dynamic and new-face would be a better choice considering BN wants to woo younger voters, compared to Palanivel, who is 61.
Others however said a tested veteran like him has a better chance of winning big instead of a newcomer.
Within the MIC there is a move to favour a newcomer because if Palanivel contests and wins, the MIC’s sole seat in the Cabinet now held by Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S Subramanian will have to go to Palanivel, who is party deputy president.
Some supporters of former MIC deputy president Datuk S. Subramanian also want either Subramaniam or another to contest instead of Palanivel.
They are kicking up a fuss by word of mouth and in the Makkal Osai, a daily owned by Subramaniam and his allies, questioning Palanivel’s potential candidacy.
In Umno, former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo opened a can of worms saying, in his blog last week that Palanivel is not a good candidate because it would cause dissension in the MIC.
He was lambasted by MIC division leaders for “interfering” in MIC matters and was told off by numerous MIC leaders in private telephone calls.
In a posting on his blog on Monday Khir Toyo now appears to have changed his position and is now endorsing an MIC candidate to contest in the Hulu Selangor by-election.
He said that although there were calls for Umno to field a candidate, it was not appropriate as the constituency belonged to MIC.
“In the concept of sharing power among the various races and mutual understanding, it is fair that an MIC candidate should be allowed to stand in the by-election,” he wrote.
Samy Vellu has been fending off demands from MIC division leaders especially in Selangor to tell Umno to back-off but he has been careful not to hurt the feelings of leaders in the Malay party.
A week ago he called a press conference and announced that the MIC will contest the seat and that Palanivel is the candidate and “no one else”.
The move was unprecedented but he has now agreed with a request from Najib that MIC will submit three names for BN to decide.
Palanivel, MIC sources said, is still heading the BN list despite the many undercurrents in the MIC and Umno.
The Election Commission is announcing on Friday the nomination and polling dates.
On the PKR side a neuro-surgeon Dr Halili Rahmat, who fought twice before and lost, and PKR veteran Khalid Jaafar are vying along with PKR co-coordinator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, to be the candidate.
PKR sources said Zaid is still in the lead.