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Ethnic Tamil Minister Velu defeated in Malaysian polls
March 08, 2008 23:53 IST
Malaysia's long-serving Tamil minister Samy Velu was on Saturday handed down a surprise defeat in Malaysian snap polls seen as a 'litmus test' for the ruling coalition, which faces the danger of a getting its majority dented.
Though prime minister Abdullah Badawi's Barisan Nasional party won all the six seats for which results were announced, it may lose in provincial polls in Penang and Kelantan.
Malaysian Indian Congress president Velu, who had served eight terms in Parliament and was works minister of Malaysia for long, was given the worst birthday gift on a day he turned 72.
Even on Friday, he was confident that ethnic Tamils will overwhelmingly vote for him and his government and would not be misled by a few leaders who had been running a campaign complaining of racial inequality in the multi-ethnic country.
Adding salt to the ruling coalition's injury was the impressive victory of detained Hindu Rights Action Force leader M Manoharan fighting on opposition Democratic Action Party ticket from the Kota Alam Shah state seat in Selangor. He beat Barisan Nasional's Ching Su Chen, reports here said.
Manoharan, whose organisation has been fighting against the alleged marginalisation of ethnic Indians, has been behind bars since late 2007 along with four other Hindraf leaders for organising the November 25 ethnic Indians' rally. His wife, a political novice, campaigned relentlessly for him.
All the results are expected to come out by Sunday. The ruling coalition is expected to win but not by the landslide margin it had attained in the 2004 polls.
Velu, whose party is a component of the ruling coalition, lost his Sungei Siput parliamentary seat in Perak state to opposition People's Justice party candidate D Jeykumar. Velu had defeated Jeyakumar in the 2004 polls.
Velu has been enveloped in an avalanche of criticism from ethnic Indians who found a new voice through the non-governmental Hindraf.
More than 20,000 ethnic Indians attended the rally organised by the group on November 25, 2007. Their grouse was mainly against Velu, who they claimed had not done enough to uplift the minority community in over two decades since he had held the post.
Though Velu denied all the allegations, he and the government were clearly rattled by the protests and went all out to woo the ethnic Indian voters assuring them of their support in all fields.
Another major shock for the Barisan came in Penang where after 36 years of continuous rule, it lost to a loose alliance of opposition parties DAP, PKR and Pas.
The Democratic Action Party's P Ramaswamy defeated outgoing Penang chief minister Koh Tsu Koon, a veteran Barisan Nasional leader.
The opposition will form the next state government in Penang for second time in history. Gerakan, then an opposition party, won Penang almost 40 years ago.