Is MIC dead?

HASHINI KAVISHTRI KANNAN
18 Nov 2023 10:00am
Malaysian Indian Congress, or MIC in short, is a Malaysian political party that was established in 1946.
Malaysian Indian Congress, or MIC in short, is a Malaysian political party that was established in 1946.
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SHAH ALAM - Malaysian Indian Congress, or MIC in short, is a Malaysian political party that was established in 1946.

It has a rich historical legacy and was instrumental in the formation of Malaysia as a sovereign nation.

As one of the founding members of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, MIC has played a crucial role in representing the legitimate aspirations of the Indian community, fostering interracial harmony and addressing social and political issues affecting Indians in the country.

In recent years, however, concerns have risen regarding the party's dwindling influence, particularly within the Indian community.

Many have also questioned, while others predicted that the end was near for the MIC, with the BN coalition joining hands with Pakatan Harapan (PH) under the unity government banner.

Political experts have weighed in on what the future might turn out to be for one of the oldest political parties in the country and its continued survival in the current volatile political landscape.

Political analyst Associate Prof Dr Syaza Shukri from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) suggested that MIC's relevance has diminished significantly, given its limited representation with only one seat.

"Since it only has one seat, it is safe to say that their contribution and influence are very little now.

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"Perhaps within BN it is still important, but within the unity government with at least 15 parties, MIC is irrelevant," she told Sinar Daily.

Noting that MIC's future at this point still remained unclear, Syaza said she was optimistic about the party's potential resurgence with a change in leadership and the return of Indian voters who have previously supported other parties.

"I think in the current landscape it would be difficult, but in the future the possibility is there.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, likened Indian voters to their Malay counterparts, whereby they were electorally split in many ways and that MIC has come up at the short end of this political spectrum.

"But it still won a few seats in successive elections, testifying to its small but persistent persistence in staying in power as a political force.

"Well, in the fragmented electoral landscape that we have nowadays, where every single vote counts, MIC could still mobilise their admittedly shrinking supporter base in favour of their coalition partners," he said.

Oh also said that the current MIC leadership was more reticent than their predecessors, especially the daunting former party president Tun S. Samy Vellu.

He said now most Indian voters prefer being championed by other parties, such as DAP and PKR.

In contrast, Syaza said MIC, to some extent, was still needed as a political party due to legacy reasons and for being the main party to represent the community specifically.

Comparing the party to MCA, which was more vocal in stating its stand on matters concerning the people, she said MIC was dependent on its relationships with others in BN.

"And without a strong leader, it cannot and does not want to take much risk," she added.

Stating a differing opinion, Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said MIC was still relevant to the Indian community despite recent rejection by the people, which was apparent in the last general election.

"MIC has played a vital role and indeed was still doing it, although the support for the party has deteriorated to one seat retained from almost nine previously.

"The community is still looking for MIC party leaders to get assistance and support, although they might not give their vote to them," he added.

Though it was merely impossible to play a significant role in Malaysian politics with only one seat, Sivamurugan said the MIC could still play a part in voicing up the needs, demands and mindset of the community within BN and the unity government itself.

"The party needs to rejuvenate continuously within and outside of the party.

"They will sustain themselves while playing their role to protect the interests of the Indians and at the same time played a ‘check and balance’ role in order to address the concerns of their supporters and fence-sitters," he added.

On whether another new race-based party was needed to replace MIC, Syaza agreed by stating that MIC no longer attracted voters.

"But I think any new party must be willing to play the long game.

"DAP took a while to really win over the majority of Chinese voters. If neither Pakatan Harapan nor Perikatan Nasional was serious about the Indian community, a new party might be needed," she added.

Oh, on the other hand said there was no need for a new party as the Indian voters preferred being championed by other parties, such as DAP and PKR.

"I don't see the need for a new party. DAP and PKR Indian elected representatives are very vocal, even going against their senior party leaders," he added.

Echoing similar sentiments, Sivamurugan believed Indian voters would always go back to the MIC in the end; therefore, no new party was needed.

"We have Makkal Sakti, IPF, MIUP and many more; it may be timely to get all Indian-based parties to work together rather than to champion the cause for Indians on their own.

"MIC has started to work with Makkal Sakti; many others can come on board too, though they might have political ideological differences," he added.

MIC's relevance remained a subject of debate and it was evident that the party faced challenges in the current political landscape.

The dynamics of Malaysian politics continue to evolve and the fate of MIC will likely depend on its ability to adapt and reconnect with its supporters and voters.

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