CHENNAI: The lack of a fan base in rural pockets of Tamil Nadu for actor Kamal Hassan has posed a problem for the film star's newly found political outfit Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) as the party's membership drive has failed to make significant inroads.
It is learnt that districts in-charge of the party, which was launched with much fanfare this year, are struggling to get people enrolled under the membership drive, which was flagged off on February 23. Highly informed sources say that on an average only 10,000 members per assembly segment has been enrolled since last four months, according to sources. The failure of Brand Kamal in rural areas in Tamil Nadu, including town and rural panchayats, has been attributed to lack of films that could cater to the rural fan base.
One of the districts in-charge told Express, "Our thalaivar (leader) has been an actor for urban audiences his life. "Indian" was the last film released in 1996 which got a huge response among both rural and urban audiences. During the last 22 years, none of his films got a good response from rural pockets."
"Even "Thenali" which witnessed huge success in Tier-1 and Tier-2cities couldn't make inroads into rural pockets of Tamil Nadu. Due to lack of a rural fan base, we couldn't get enough numbers of membership," he elaborated.
A party functionary said that closure of cinema theaters in rural areas has also added to party's misery. But then there has been good news also. "We have managed to retrieve our old fan base in municipal areas thanks to the Big Boss programme," confided the party functionary. It is learnt that MNM could not even muster one lakh members in nine districts that include Perambalur, Ariyalur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai, Theni, Thiruvannamalai and others.
A reliable party source said, "We could manage to enrol members only in pockets of Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchy, Tirunelveli, Vellore andSivaganga districts. On an average, only 10,000 members have been enrolled per assembly segment." Tiruchy is currently the biggest district base for the party with over a lakh members. Another district in central Tamil Nadu with around 55,000 members stands is a distant second.
The lack of response to membership drive is also attributed to the party stressing the need to register with either Aadhar card or voter identity card. "People are reluctant to offer such identity cards to others. And most of the persons who are showing interest in politics already have got membership with some other parties," a party functionary said.
Interestingly, Kamal, who has floated his party before actor Rajinikanth, his rival in cine industry for last four decades, seems to be lagging behind when it comes to appointing party functionaries. Rajini, who has yet to float his party, has appointed functionaries from ward level to district level including various wings like youth, women, advocates, doctors and traders. It is learnt that Kamal has yet to appoint district functionaries.