Kamal Haasan ready with a new role, armed with a script different from rivals

Updated by admin on Thursday, April 22, 2021 03:56 PM IST

Chennai: For a man who took jibes at politics and politicians in many of his films, life has come a full circle—actor Kamal Haasan has decided to enter the electoral arena, contesting from the Coimbatore South constituency in Tamil Nadu.

His Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) has barely two years’ experience in politics, but he is ready to take on the Dravidian heavyweights, the DMK and the AIADMK, with his own front, which seems to be a take-off of the AAP model.

Kamal Haasan himself spent considerable time with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal before launching his own party in Tamil Nadu. Kamal has shown considerable interest in following the fortunes of NGOs, self-help groups for women, activists in the field of environment and social reform. It can, therefore, be said that the MNM is exploring a new territory—of tapping into a support base of youth and non-voters.

V. Ponraj, an adviser to former President APJ Abdul Kalam, has considerable experience in reaching out to young entrepreneurs, social media groups and YouTubers, and claims to have brought into the MNM’s fold nearly 1.5 lakh such people.


The MNM believes in identifying the 30 per cent-plus citizens who keep away from elections, apparently due to lack of faith in the present political system. Rather than worry about the 50 per cent voters who exercise their preference for the mainstream parties, the MNM targets the floating voters, first-time voters and non-voters who could form a solid vote-bank of 40 per cent. This is an ambitious exercise but the MNM volunteers say they made a good start in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when the new party secured about 4 per cent of the votes despite intense competition.

The field of experiment has been expanded now with a larger support base as some minor parties have joined hands with the MNM, like the Samathuva Makkal Katchi, led by actor-politician Sarathkumar who has broken away from the ruling AIADMK, and the Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi, led by Paarivendhar who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019, contesting on the DMK’s Rising Sun symbol.

The Congress, unhappy with the DMK’s earlier offer on seat-sharing, and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) came close to stitching an alliance with the MNM but last-minute efforts by mediators enabled the DMK to hold on to these two allies. The political situation could have undergone a major change if these two parties had tied up with the MNM. Two other parties, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) led by actor Vijayakanth, an ally of the AIADMK until recently, and the Muslim outfit SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India), too held discussions with the MNM but an alliance could not come through.

Kamal Haasan expressed his unhappiness that several parties held discussions with his party but did not go ahead with an alliance and instead fell back on the time-tested strategy of a tie-up with the major parties. He also sympathized with these parties for having to go through a humiliating experience and hoped they would do better next time. The inability of the MNM to finalise an alliance with several parties after entering into a dialogue with them is something that should worry Kamal Haasan if he seeks to broaden his base.

Nonetheless, Kamal has done impressive work with relation to selection of candidates from the non-formal sector. As more information is shared with the public about the social work done by these candidates in their respective fields, there is a growing appreciation for his candidates’ list although it has few big names.

The DMK and the AIADMK parties’ leaders admit that Kamal Haasan’s MNM could make a significant impact, especially in urban areas where the party enjoys a greater following on social media. Kamal Haasan has already done a smart thing by selecting Coimbatore South Assembly constituency for his first major fight—the two major Dravidian parties are not contesting here and have allotted the seat to the national parties, the Congress and the BJP. Kamal, therefore, should feel that he has a realistic chance of forging ahead. His party had put up an impressive performance here in the parliamentary polls.

In a state with plenty of parties, with several playing the caste card, Kamal Haasan has a tough job ahead of him— to carve out a unique space for the MNM. Can Kamal’s experiment of rising above caste, religion and dogma succeed in the short-term or will he have to wait for better times?

By R. Rangaraj


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