The issue whether Barisan Nasional should admit another Indian based political party cropped up again with the coming inauguration of Makkal Sakthi and with a long outstanding application by an Indian Muslim Party.
It is easily understandable why this issue emerged again after the General Election debacle in 2008 where almost all Indian candidates lost and Indian voter support was virtually decimated. Both MIC and PPP, another Indian based party, failed miserably.
To put this issue in the right perspective, please see the following table:
Estimated Voter Support by Race for BN(Semenanjung)
The above table was obtained by multiple regression analysis of Parliamentary Election results for the years 1999, 2004 and 2008 and, by any measure is a reasonably accurate estimate.
Highly visible is the virtual desertion of BN by Indian voters in the General Election 2008 in which only 10.4% of them voted the government caolition. In the 1999 election the situation was not much worse than Malay support but in the 2004 general election Indian voters were in full force when 77.4% of them voted for BN.
I have not analysed the results prior to the 1999 general election, but judging from the performance of BN candidates, especially those of MIC, it should be reasonable to assert that MIC has been a stabilising factor during those years.
The importance of Indian voters cannot be underestimated. They account for 8.5% of all registered voters in the country, but their power is magnified in 26 parliamentary constituencies where Indian votes account for at least 15% of the total votes.
The debacle of MIC in recent general election, whether the government admits it or not, coincides with the Anwar factor. In the 1999 General Election, only about 46.6% Indian voted for BN. That was the election year of the Anwar saga, mostly remembered for his black eye. In the year 2004 when Anwar was still in prison, Indian voters gave overwhelming support for BN, but in 2008 when Anwar was actively campaigning with fiery speeches, Indian support for BN virtually evaporated.
As for Malay votes, they also fluctuate and affected by political sentiment, but to a lesser degree than the Indian votes.
By comparison, Chinese voter support for BN has been more stable in the last ten years, though with a slightly declining trend. Most notable was the 1999 general election where chinese voters were not at all affected by the Anwar saga. However, in the 2008 election they switched substantially in favour of the opposition, perhaps sensing unusual political opportunity. This is an indicator of a mature voters, not so much affected by sentiment but rather by economic and political factors.
With the above scenario, is it fair to put the blame squarely on MIC for the BN debacle? Indian voters are traditionally loyal to BN, but they are also emotional. They can easily be instigated by a highly charasmatic speaker like Anwar in the presence of genuine or perceived grouses.
Whether those grouses were due to lack of sensitivity of UMNO to Indian community demand or lack of efforts by MIC under Samy Vellu, is open to debate, but it is of utmost importance to address this issue.
Critics put down a long list of MIC failures such as the failed Maika Holdings, inadequate Indian participation in business, the decline of Tamil schools and the destruction of Hindu temples.
On the other hand , MIC can point out to their contribution in giving out loans and scholarships to 10,000 Indian students in the last 20 years and the setting up of a private Indian University.
Moreover the crackdown on Hindraf and the bad timing of the last general election had nothing to do with MIC.
As a political force, MIC has a total of 3,000 branches with a total of 600,000 members all of them of Indian race. In contrast PPP, another Indian based BN party also claims to have 3,000 branches but only 240,000 members, ie. 48% of the total, are Indians.
Under this scenario, would it do any good for BN to admit other Indian based party. If they are admitted, can they really contribute in the next general election, given the obvious lack of logistics of any new party?
Or isn’t it more effective just for MIC to reinvent itself just as what UMNO is doing now. Any such efforts needs special sacrifice from its leaders, first and foremost for Samy Vellu to step down to pave the way for a fresh image in the next general election. Tun Mahathir was right when he relentlessly urged Samy Vellu to step down.