Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) Deputy President G. Palanivel has been sworn in as the Deputy Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities. He shares responsibilities with another Deputy Minister, while a Cabinet-rank leader heads the Ministry.

Mr. Palanivel was among the six Deputy Ministers who took the oath of office and pledge of loyalty and secrecy before the monarch in Kuala Lumpur last Friday. A full-fledged Minister was also sworn in as part of a Cabinet expansion by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

The induction of Mr. Palanivel acquires political importance because of the “transition” that the MIC is now going through, according to an ethnic-Indian source in Kuala Lumpur. The MIC is a key constituent of the ruling multiracial Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

MIC President S. Samy Vellu, whose leadership style faltered during the 2008 general election after a number of decades of “sure touch,” was present during Mr. Palanivel's swearing-in. Mr. Samy Vellu was a key figure at the centre-stage of Malaysian politics for nearly three decades until 2008, when he failed to retain a long-held parliamentary seat.

Significant now was the political accommodation of Mr. Palanivel as a Deputy Minister after he was overlooked in the recent parliamentary by-election for the Hulu Selangor seat. He was his party's first choice as candidate, but the BN coalition decided instead to field P. Kamalanathan, MIC information chief. In the event, Mr. Kamalanathan won.

Mr. Palanivel had represented Hulu Selangor for 18 years until 2008, when the BN coalition, inclusive of the MIC, suffered an unusual electoral setback by losing a long-held two-thirds parliamentary majority.

A high-profile MIC leader and Malaysia's Human Resources Minister, S. Subramaniam, told The Hindu over telephone that Mr. Palanivel's induction should be seen from the overall national and ethnic-Indian perspectives. The portfolios allotted to Mr. Palanivel were of continuing relevance to the welfare of the ethnic-Indian minority, said Dr. Subramaniam.

At another end of the political spectrum, the banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders said they would not look at the situation of the Malaysian Indians under the MIC's prism.

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