As clock ticks, BN looks to Teluk Intan Indians for crucial votes

Teluk Intan MIC chairman M. Sivamani (pic) believed support from the community towards BN was on the rise and voiced confidence that the number may even have jumped to 62 per cent from 40 per cent last year. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Teluk Intan MIC chairman M. Sivamani (pic) believed support from the community towards BN was on the rise and voiced confidence that the number may even have jumped to 62 per cent from 40 per cent last year. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

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TELUK INTAN, May 30 ― Believing Teluk Intan's Chinese majority will back  DAP, Barisan Nasional (BN) has been aggressively courting the Indian residents in hopes of winning the crucial number of votes it needs in tomorrow's by-election.

In the past one-and-a-half weeks since campaigning formally started, the 13-party coalition has been sending out senior leaders, even stationing top MIC leaders like Datuk Seri S.K. Devamany and Datuk R. Ganesan in Teluk Intan, to oversee the burst of welfare activities for the Indian community who make up a sizeable 19 per cent of the vote.

The 12 Tamil schools in the federal constituency ― usually left alone ― are getting between RM25,000 and RM100,000 each for renovation works and new computers, Teluk Intan MIC chairman M. Sivamani said.

“We’d like to decide that Datuk Mah comes here,” he told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview, referring to BN’s local-born Teluk Intan candidate Datuk Mah Siew Keong.

“If the Malays can maintain their support of 75 to 80 per cent last year, and if the Chinese can give us another 5 per cent extra, because last year we got 20 to 25 per cent, then surely with Indian support, we are winning,” Sivamani added.

The Indians comprise 19 per cent of the Teluk Intan electorate, which amounts to 11,468 voters.

The Chinese and Malays form 42 per cent and 38 per cent respectively of the 60,349-strong electorate.

Gerakan president Mah, 53, has maintained that he is the underdog in the election, pointing out that he had lost Teluk Intan in the May 5 general election last year to DAP’s Seah Leong Peng by over 7,000 votes.

This time around though, Sivamani believed support from the community towards BN was on the rise and voiced confidence that the number may even have jumped to 62 per cent from 40 per cent last year. In Election 2008, Indian support for BN in Teluk Intan stood at only 30 per cent.

The MIC division chief claimed the Indians were frustrated at the lack of opportunities to improve their economic status over the last two terms as when Teluk Intan was represented at the federal level by its DAP lawmaker.

“Forty-five per cent of Indian voters are youths. And 40 per cent of the youths are jobless,” Sivamani said.

The majority of Indians in Teluk Intan are low-income earners who labour in the nearby palm oil plantations and factories, while some are teachers in the 12 Tamil schools in the constituency, according to Sivamani.

In Taman Cicely, a residential area in the Perak town that has the second largest group of Indian voters at 1,255 people who are mostly educated, Sivamani said BN has been pleading with them to vote to help the impoverished.

“We tell them ‘don’t vote for yourself. Vote for the poor’. Only Barisan can help the poor,” said Sivamani.

After a BN ceramah last Tuesday, hampers containing basic food items like flour, sugar, and milk powder were handed out to the predominantly Indian crowd.

Chandra Subramaniam, a 43-year-old housewife living in Taman Cicely, said Mah was a helpful man, pointing out that BN had given her a cash aid of RM100 after her husband died recently.

“He gives all sorts of aid,” Chandra told The Malay Mail Online.

The DAP, however, expressed confidence that it could retain the 60 to 65 per cent Indian support that was won in the 13th general election last year.

“There shouldn’t be any reason for us to drop in the percentage of support. If at all there’s a decrease in Indian votes, it’s because some of them are outstation,” V. Sivakumar, DAP Perak campaign deputy director, told The Malay Mail Online.

He noted that the crowd size at DAP ceramah in predominantly Indian residential areas has been “overwhelming”.

“When we did one at Desa Aman, it was nothing less than 1,500 people. We did another in Desa Bakti, about 1,000 people. We also did a ‘ceramah kelompok’ (group ceramah) in Salaba Lot, where we expected 100 people, but we got minimum 400 people,” said the Batu Gajah MP.

Sivakumar said that besides the unexpectedly large crowds at the nightly ceramah, house visits also showed that the pro-DAP sentiment among the Indians has not changed, and has even improved among the women.

“I was surprised to know that the Indian women were very receptive of Dyana,” he said, referring to DAP’s candidate Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud.

Letchumy Munusamy, a 52-year-old factory worker, approved of Dyana Sofya, calling the 26-year-old lawyer a young and active candidate who could improve Teluk Intan.

“Just give her a chance,” Letchumy told The Malay Mail Online.

Dyana Sofya will take on Mah in a straight fight for the Teluk Intan federal seat in Perak tomorrow.

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