Can we have a moratorium on fishing for Indian votes? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, March 26, 2018
Malaysiakini : "It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority." - Lord Acton
COMMENT | Around election time,
the “Indian vote” comes into play. Politicians from both sides of the
divide make the necessary noises of “inclusion” to cater to the
demographic. The comments sections of such news stories are sprinkled
with the usual racists diatribes against the community. Besides the
urban English educated voter, the people who actually vote in districts
which could actually mean something, do not read the “English” news
stories that come out in the alternative media, or the mainstream
(English) media for that matter.
I get that Indian votes are important, especially when the opposition
intends to contest in seats where every vote counts but with the
establishment ramping up the propaganda and the opposition doing the
same, the reality is that the Indian community, or at least the
marginalised in the Indian community, are slowly coming to the
realisation that they will always be on the losing end when race-based
So, the morons spewing such invective are only spewing them out to
Indians who may actually be opposition-inclined. Why they would be after
reading such crap is beyond me, but this idea that politicians so
heavily invested in the race dialectic between the Chinese and Malay
community fishing for Indian votes, in case they need something extra in
tight races, is getting ridiculous.
I have questioned the value of having Indian-based parties, arguing
that it would reflect reality a little better if we had an Indonesian or
maybe even a Bangladeshi-based party. I do not know the exact numbers –
does anyone? – but it would seem more realistic to cater to them than
the Indian community.
The script is always the same, the prime minister or his proxies make
some noises about the “plight” of the Indians and then there is the
predictable response from the other side. Partisans point to the
participation of Indians in the opposition but cannot conceive that
their side is afflicted with tokenism like the establishment they claim
they want to dispose of.
While I acknowledge the contribution of those opposition political
operatives who have gone out of their way to handle the stateless Indian
issue amongst others, the reality is that as a voting block except in
some extreme cases, the Indian vote is practically worthless. (This, of
course, makes their efforts all the more worthwhile.)
Worthless in the sense that it only means anything if it is a
deciding factor and not that it generates any political capital on its
own. I mean the MIC, or any other party claiming to represent the Indian
community, means very little because the votes of the Indian community
beyond special circumstances do not mean a thing.
The current Umno grand poobah claims that the government is inclusive
but the reality is that you cannot be inclusive with quotas. The same
applies to the opposition. When my friend, former Hindraf leader P
Uthayakumar talked about quotas, we argued about it very often. Quotas
are, by definition, exclusionary.
Besides in the realpolitik sense when people talk about Indians, who
they are really talking about is the disenfranchised in the Indian
community. The urban educated class, most probably opposition-leaning,
have very little interest in the community beyond the usual confluence
of religion and other festivities. Furthermore, as a community, there
are divisions along religious lines - Christian and Hindu - and of
course, sub-ethnic groups, which sometimes translate into political
All of this makes fishing for Indian votes problematic. The MIC has
let down the community badly and even though they are now scrambling to
attempt to solve some of the problems of the community (which
community?) they have an albatross around their neck when it comes to
religion (Umno) and corruption (their own).
Now, I do not want to pit MIC against the Indian political operatives
of the opposition because both are doing good work for the community
they claim to represent. Both work under specific pressures, which is
always a problem for minority ethnic groups in majoritarian hegemons.
Anecdotally, I have met far more Indians who will not vote MIC but
would vote nearly any other party solely because they view the MIC as
some sort of overlords who attack the “common” man, engage in gangster
behaviour while blaming the criminal activities of the community on
Tamil films, monopolise temple activities, and generally have stamped on
the backs of the Indian community. The common refrain is that the MIC
does not need the Indian vote, and whatever ministers the MIC has in the
government are there to serve for self-serving purposes.
Whatever promises made to the Indian community do not mean much. How
exactly if the community is not a significant voting block are those who
break promises going to be held accountable? How exactly does a
community whose political leadership, either establishment or
opposition, are constantly told that they are there because of the votes
of the Malay and Chinese effectively advocate on behalf of their
community like the Malay and Chinese leadership? So, this is not solely
an MIC problem.
Hindraf was a squandered opportunity and since then, whatever
leadership that marginalised Indians hoped to have, has been taken over
by opportunists and charlatans who always make such grandiose claims on
behalf of the community and then scuttle away into the darkness waiting
for the next opportune moment to flare up again.
I was talking to an MIC operative and he was heartened by the
participation of youths in their programmes and took it as a positive
sign that the young Indians were returning to the MIC. Meanwhile, when I
talked to government-aligned youth activists, they claimed that their
only interest was trying to help the community and they would take the
help from any place they could get it. They were as uninterested in the
“issues” of the urban Indian electorate as they were in supporting the
And if you visit the alternative news sites and read about how the
average opposition supporter thinks about the community, you would
realise how the politics of race plays out in the unfiltered section of
news reports. Add this with some of the comments that some opposition
political operatives make about how you could bribe the community with
alcohol and rice and you will understand why people – not only Indians –
are apathetic when it comes to voting in this country.
So, while I get that the reason for all these overtures is that
political operatives understand that every vote counts, ultimately what
the Indian community - however they self-identify - needs to reach that
place where they no longer need not only the government but political
parties, much like the allegiance to political parties by the other
minority is by choice not necessity.
After all, in substance there are already in this position because the political landscape in this country does not need them.