Kamal Haasan’s electoral debut was much like his appearance as a child artiste in his first movie Kalathur Kannamma (1960). His party took fledgling steps in a learning process. As an actor in politics, Kamal did not represent anything new in Tamil Nadu, a State with a famous penchant for vaulting cinema stars into the seat of power at Fort St George. But he made the point that his Makkal Needhi Maiyam is a party with a difference.
“Politics is not my profession. Nor is it that of anyone in my party,” declared Kamal Haasan, president of MNM that made its electoral debut in the April-May 2019 polls. The party drew a blank but did impressively enough in the major cities, attracting young voters. In a meet to acknowledge the people who voted for his party, Kamal emphasised that he is still a film actor first but who took a 14-month journey into the world of politics, if only to explore it.
Kamal spent a lot of campaign time away from Chennai, despite which his party fared well in the capital, garnering more than a lakh of votes in all three constituencies besides a very impressive performance in Coimbatore. A third place in the largest urban centres gives the party respectability for all the efforts taken to travel miles and spend hours at campaign points, many times in road shows rather than formal political meetings for which permission was’nt always forthcoming.
The youngsters seem to have taken a shy to the charismatic cinema star and actor considered the most talented at dramatics. “He has something that appeals to me and, perhaps, all youngsters,” says Lavanya R. She is one among thousands of youngsters who were willing to come forward and say that they voted for Kamal. They did not mind saying in public who they had voted for just as they wear their emotions on their sleeves in the openminded ways of youth.
For sheer mass following, Kamal may be way behind Rajinikanth, but in acting he is rated a thespian who did varied roles with aplomb to be a major matinee star in his own right and the urban young may be attracted to that, besides a party promising an upright and non-corrupt. Graft is a bigger issue for idealistic youth and anyone with a fresh start promising to accept bribes would be a big hit, much as Arvind Kejriwal of AAP, a kind of mentor to Kamal, was.
“He has miles to go yet. He has to learn to speak. I am sure he realised that after attracting much criticism for some needless statements on religion, his personal non-belief in God, etc. In getting into the Gandhi assassination issue he showed he is raw in politics. It is hoped that he will learn to speak smart, if not like a politician, at least like any person who has to be wary because he has to speak in public every day,” says techie R. Venkatesan who takes keen interest in politics.
The national vote was for the lotus and the state vote for an old Dravidian party. That Kamal got a fair share for a fledgling party may make other parties sit up and take notice. MNM may be aiming at the Assembly elections, not due in the normal course for two years. A wiser Kamal may have emerged by then as he might know by now what pitfalls to avoid. But don’t give him a chance yet to be an MGR or a Jayalalithaa from the world of films to the CM’s gaddi in the fort.