It is the prime minister's direct influence with the NGOs in the Indian community that has helped regain their loyalty to BN.
Political pundits and party loyalists are predicting that the party, which claims to have some 630,000 members, will see its parliamentary and state seats slashed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
In the 2008 general election, the party was allocated nine parliamentary and 19 state seats under the Barisan Nasional banner.
But it only managed to win three parliamentary and seven state seats. MIC later won another parliamentary seat through a by-election in Hulu Selangor in 2010.
A party veteran whom FMT recently spoke to said MIC has lost its “vibrancy and visibility”.
“The MIC is not as vibrant as before… whatever said and done S Samy Vellu [former MIC president] made the party vibrant and visible.
“Now the party looks to be in a slumber. They need a wake-up call.”
He said the “wake up call’ would be in the form of a “seats slash”.
“I expect to see Najib reducing the number of seats the party will contest.
“MIC is assured of the three seats it won [in 2008]. Hulu Selangor will also be given back to the party… but the other seats are still questionable,” said the leader who declined to be named.
‘Best formula for BN’
At the 2008 general election, MIC won in Segamat (Johor), Cameron Highlands (Pahang) and Tapah (Perak) parliamentary seats.
The Segamat incumbent is party deputy president Dr S Subramaniam while Cameron Highlands and Tapah are held by party vice-presidents S K Devamany and M Saravanan respectively.
The Hulu Selangor seat was won by P Kamalanathan, who is a member of the party’s central working committee member.
Currently, MIC president G Palanivel is “seatless”. He lost his Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat in the 2008 polls by a mere 198 votes.
According to the veteran leader, who has been a party member for the past 40 years, Najib’s recent statements and moves point towards a “restructuring” of the seats-allotment.
“Don’t forget the BN president [Najib] has insisted [in the last BN supreme council meeting] that it is not necessary that all seats are allocated to components parties.
“He also declared at the last Umno general assembly that he only wanted winnable candidates.
“Also, don’t forget he has been engaging the NGO leaders and BN-friendly parties who are seen as dedicated and will help the coalition in achieving its ‘people first’ policy.
“The prime minister in finding the best formula to remain in power is considering fielding candidates who are not politicians,” he said.
During last month’s BN supreme council meeting, Najib had warned all component parties not to claim any right of seat or demand it belongs to them.
NGOs support for Najib
Najib had reportedly said that the seats will be allocated based on ground performance and that he will decide on a suitable candidate.
According to Najib, a BN internal analysis showed MIC as one of the weakest links in BN, having failed to regain the Indian support it lost in the 2008 national polls.
The analysis also indicated that BN had regained its “clout” among Indians but this was through Najib’s direct contact with the community.
“The time has changed now. MIC was once the ‘sole spokesman’ for the Indian community. It’s now lost that right.
“The community now has a multitude of representatives. The Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry [MAICCI] led by Kenneth Eswaran has played a major role in Najib’s Indian Economic Transformation Programme.
“MyNadi, chaired by Dr S Jeyaindran, is focused on Tamil schools through ‘Project Ilmu’ and other Indian-based parties like PPP, IPF, MIUP and MMP have done a wonderful job of taking up Indian issues to the relevant authorities.
“Now the community has various channels to help them fulfil their demands and expectations.
“Based on this fact alone, I strongly believed that MIC may lose several of its seats.
“I foresee Najib giving a chance to others to contest in the general election,” he added.
Palanivel a ‘wrong leader’
The veteran leader was also of the opinion that MIC might work out a compromise with the BN leadership.
“I think they will surrender most of the 19 state seats and ask to keep the nine parliamentary seats.
“I won’t be surprised if Najib granted state seats to language-based bodies like Telugu association, Malayali associations and other smaller Indian-based parties.
“By allocating seats directly to them, Najib can enjoy and draw more support from the Indian community without the intervention of MIC,” he added.
When asked to explain the current leadership, the veteran leader described Palanivel as a “wrong president in a right time”.
“What has he done since taking over the party leadership?
“Palanivel is just blowing his own trumpet by claiming that MIC is gaining the trust of the Indian voters when the ground feeling is totally different.
“The community has benefited from Najib’s direct influence. Palanivel did nothing. He is always silent.
“Compared to the former prime ministers, Najib is the best prime minister the Indian community has had todate,” he said.
‘MIC counting its days’
The leader also said the 13th general election was “the best chance ever” to convert all partially aided Tamil schools into fully-aided schools.
“But, until today Palanivel has not voiced out about the issue. He can claim that he raised the matter in Cabinet meetings but it is a public interest matter.
“So, he should make the demand in public,” added the leader.
MIC, he said, is running out of time, now that Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had indicated that the general election will likely be held this year.
“It seems like the party is now counting its days to doomsday,” he said