KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — Barisan Nasional (BN) will still need to bank heavily on MIC if it wishes to garner ethnic Indian votes in the next general election, observers said, citing the Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party’s (MMSP) current lack of support, experience and clout.

Several political analysts polled by Malay Mail felt MMSP has not raised many issues pertaining to the Indian community, was low profile, and yet to demonstrate its influence.

Its lack of experience in the legislature could also make it challenging for the party to convince voters, they said.

“MMSP has not raised any important issues for the Indian community for a while. For example they were silent when the government cancelled Thaipusam celebrations, MIC said something and so did DAP,” said political scientist Prof K. Ramanathan.

“Issues like Dr Zakir Naik, which affected the community, or the contract doctors drama they didn’t raise much so they look more pro-Umno than anything,” he added, referring to the fugitive Indian national televangelist and the demands of contract doctors for permanent posts.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid told Malay Mail MMSP was effectively a one-man show led by RS Thanenthiran whose initial foray into politics in 2013 ended poorly.

Thanenthiran was the ex-Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) national coordinator who broke away in 2009 and formed MMSP as an independent.

Not much has been heard from the party ever since.

Ahmad Fauzi said several ex-Hindraf leaders were under the illusion that they still command mass support from the ethnic Indians. 

However, he pointed out that former Hindraf founder P. Uthayakumar lost badly when he contested the Kota Raja parliamentary and Sri Andalas state seats in 2013.

Uthayakumar, who was a Hindraf co-founder and Human Rights Party pro-tem secretary-general, then accused his brother, the former unity minister and Hindraf co-founder P. Waythamoorthy, of betraying the movement by joining hands with BN in a three-way fight for the seats that caused him to lose.

“The so-called Hindraf uprising of 2007 was rather a spontaneous collective Indian reaction against perceived injustices against the Indian community. It was leaderless until Hindraf seized the opportunity of providing apparent direction at the spur of the moment. 

“I see MMSP as nothing more than continuing along this Hindraf path but projecting a BN-friendly face. Through BN, it hopes to get access to BN (and now government) resources, including election seats. 

“Parties like Parti Bangsa Malaysia and MMSP are jumping on the BN bandwagon as they see, based on the string of by-elections and state elections, that BN would win GE15,” he said when contacted.

Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had in September said he would allocate seats for MMSP at GE15 so it can contest under BN’s banner. 

Then on January 10, MMSP president Datuk Seri RS Thanenthiran said the party wanted four to contest four parliamentary seats and five state seats in the upcoming GE15. 

MIC has always been a BN component and is the biggest Indian-dominated party in Malaysia since independence in 1957. However after losing GE14, it has slowly lost support as the public voted the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in.

Ramanathan however said that PH too performed poorly while in office and as a result the public may want to go back to the old days despite allegations of corruption and power abuse.

“It happens all over the world,” he said.

“Issues like race and religion are always played up when someone wants to divert the public from real issues. Parties like MMSP will then mushroom like the rain and dry out when the sun comes up.”

Ramanathan said when it comes to seat allocations at GE15, MIC was a better choice than MMSP as it would be perceived as an “old and trusted brand”.

He said these parties are aware that the Indian votes are split so whichever party is under BN will win GE15 as some will vote MIC some MMSP and in the end BN will be successful. 

“The think tanks all know the Indian vote is crucial in a lot of seats.

“If Indian voters are undecided who to vote for, breaking this Indian solidarity or indecision could be a good move, even though the truth is all government policies prior and now are severely lacking for the Indian,” he added.

Meanwhile geostrategist Azmi Hassan said having MMSP in BN was a good move for Umno as alone it will likely not be able to win GE15.

He, like Ahmad Fauzi and Ramanathan, felt that MIC is still the king in BN and it has gained renewed confidence in itself by winning one seat at the recently concluded Melaka by-elections.

“MIC won in Gadek their first and only seat in Melaka and by beating DAP no less. This will hold them in good stature with Umno and make them the priority Indian party,” said Azmi of P. Shanmugam’s win with a majority of 559 votes (3,022 total votes) compared to DAPs G. Saminathan who garnered 2,463 votes.

“There will be slight turmoil when it comes to dividing the seats at GE15 as deciding the best seats for both Indian parties will be a very huge problem although I do not doubt that BN will allocate seats for both parties.

“As MMSP is synonymous with Hindraf, it has positive Indian support compared to MIC in general. In this case despite getting priority, I think MIC will have a hard time when it comes to seat allocation as I presume both may be vying for the same seats.”

Apart from MMSP, several new political parties have emerged recently all intending to compete at GE15.

Parti Warisan, led by Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, launched its national chapter in December. Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) was formed and recently given approval and certified as a political party.

Melalap assemblyman Datuk Peter Anthony left Warisan as its vice-president. He has formed a new Sabah-based party together with Limbahau assemblyman Juil Nuatim, who was also from Warisan.

Separately, some 53,000 members from civil society Penggerak Komuniti Negara announced their membership in Parti Bangsa Malaysia led by Nor Hizwan Ahmad, a former aide to Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin.

In October last year, Parti Kuasa Rakyat or Kuasa was launched.

The party is led by Kamarazaman Yaakob, a former member of the Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia and also the elder brother of Prime Minister Tan Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who vowed to champion the struggles of the common man.