Some days back R. Mutharasan offered some thought-provoking comments about the reasons for the demise of the MIC. The essence of Mutharasan’s argument, and I quote, is as follows:
If we look at the past, there were three key policies of Umno and BN followed so religiously that they resulted in MIC's sorry state of affairs today. Although Samy Vellu cannot be exonerated from his failed leadership and wrongdoings, it is these policies of Umno and BN that gave him a freehand to deal with party matters the way he wanted without any regard for democracy.
Specifically, the article goes on to single out Umno’s policy of non-interference in the affairs of component parties, an over-reliance on the singular voice of a component party president, and locking out other Indian-based parties from the BN.
Very simply, I concur with the sentiment of the author that the MIC has become largely irrelevant as a party for the Indians. However, while I find that Mutharasan has raised some noteworthy points, the analysis offered actually merely reflects what are the symptoms of the demise of the MIC - and not its causes.
The problem with Mutharasan’s argument is that the same relationship between Umno and the component parties (in this case the MIC) existed during the height of MIC’s popularity among the Indians. If Mutharasan’s argument is that the nature of Umno’s relationship with MIC has been the reason for the latter’s demise, the problem with this reasoning is that the same Umno-MIC relationship also existed when the MIC was dominant among Indian voters or non-Indian BN voters.
Hence, Mutharasan’s reasoning would lead us to the obvious question: So what has changed to cause the demise of the MIC? Unfortunately, Mutharasan’s explanation leaves much to be desired. Indeed, that explanation offered merely confuses what are symptoms of the situation rather than the causes of the MIC’s rapid decline.
One of the central causes of the decline of the MIC is also related to the crumbling of the other race-based parties: a growing discontent with the race-based political formula practiced by Umno and its component parties. This is directly related to, and has firmly impacted, the decline of the MIC. First, Indians who used to back the MIC no longer want to do so because they have now come to see that buying into the rhetoric of the Umno-MIC “partnership” has been a failing proposition.
Second, a whole new generation of Indians have come of age – and who are not subscribing to the same indignity of being treated as second-class citizens, which the Umno-MIC “partnership” has imposed. This fact was something the MIC had long been incapable of appreciating, and understandably so – because this new thinking among the younger Indians rejected the paradigm of the MIC, which forced Indians into a subservient status. That is why the cosmetic changes of the MIC will amount to naught for the younger generation because whatever the MIC does to alter its image, it will not be able to transcend the dilemma of being a conduit to the racial apartheid that the younger generation is especially vehemently rejecting.
Third, the non-Indian voters of BN have also abandoned supporting BN-backed MIC candidates (as in the last general election) because of this wider change in the landscape of the nation’s political culture. That is, they too are not buying the BN message any longer; at least not to the same degree. And that is why you can bet on the fact that most non-Indian voters will steer away from BN-backed MIC candidates in the foreseeable future. Like the Indians who once bought into the BN propaganda, these voters are simply no longer finding the BN (and its component parties) very believable.
What we see happening with the MIC is symptomatic of this wider BN malaise. And one thing is sure, Samy Vellu’s on-going presence – and the persistence of scandals in the MIC - has certainly hastened the decline of the MIC.
But rest assured that the causes of the MIC’s decline are not going to be reversed anytime soon because the voters are increasingly rejecting the doctrine of Umno-BN racial apartheid.