Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president S. Samy Vellu may step down earlier than scheduled as Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said Sunday he will meet him to discuss the "succession plan".
Although Vellu was re-elected unopposed for the 11th time in March and his term is to last till 2012, pressure is being built to see him out in time for the general elections due in 2013.
Vellu has been heading the party since 1981.
MIC is member of the ruling Barisan Coalition (BN) that lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority and control of five of the 13 states in the election in March last year.
A minister for long, Vellu himself lost his re-election bid and the MIC's strength in parliament was reduced to three members.
A significant segment of the nearly two million ethnic Indian population, MIC's support base, was perceived as having shifted away from the BN and towards the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat.
A firm indication of moves to oust Vellu came last Friday when the country's long-time prime minister and patriarch Mahathir Mohamad called him "a liability", insisting that Vellu had "stayed too long".
"I have to discuss the matter again with him (Samy Vellu). We, in the Barisan, want the support of the Indian community," the Star Online quoted Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as saying.
"But at the same time, we should not be seen as meddling in the affairs of the MIC. We want MIC to win back the support of the community," said Razak, who is also the BN chief.
The prime minister said he would discuss the "appropriate steps" to be taken by the MIC chief on the matter.
Vellu confirmed having met Razak earlier "to discuss the succession plan".
The Star newspaper Sunday reported him as saying that Razak knew when he would step down.
"I met him in Sarawak in March and I said this is my limit. I said after that I will hand over... I won't say when it is. The prime minister knows when it is," said Vellu, 74, who has been facing demands to quit since the party fared badly last year.
Significantly, pressure on Vellu to quit has been stepped up since his entire team swept the MIC organisational poll last Sunday to pick a deputy president, three vice-presidents and 23 central working committee members.
The prime minister, who opened the MIC's 63rd assembly urged the party leaders to "reach out to the Indian community", which forms nearly eight percent of Malaysia's 28 million population.
Razak said Vellu had indeed met him prior to the MIC election to discuss the leadership change plan.
"At that time, he told me that he could not step down and if he did, then it would destabilise the party. That was before the party election.
"But now after the election, I will discuss with him again but this should not be seen as Barisan's interference in the internal affairs of the MIC," he said.