On the campaign trail: Kamal Haasan, 200-250 people and that silent candidate!

The MNM is hampered by the absence of recognisable faces among its candidates. The party also lacks the support of grassroots workers. Can Kamal alone save it?

Published: 13th April 2019 05:45 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th April 2019 07:31 PM   |  A+A-

Kamal Haasan’s MNM will contest polls on Battery Torch symbol (Photo| Sunish P Surendran/ EPS)

Online Desk

"Vanakkam Tamil Singham" blared the mic as a gathering of 200-250 people roared in unison. That was Arani welcoming their favourite cinestar Kamal Haasan. Haasan is on the campaign trail for his one-year-old party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) which is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from all 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry.

Asked if he was aware of the party's candidate from the constituency, an old man smiled and said, "Yes, it is Kamal Haasan." In fact, ask anyone in the town who is contesting and they will point to a large poster of Haasan. However, the face of the party is not in the fray this year.

Haasan had been late. Upon arrival, an escalator lifted him and the candidate V Shaji on top of the campaign vehicle. Hassan picked up the mic and addressed the crowd while the candidate stood behind him, holding a torch (the party's symbol). 

The MNM leader spoke for 15 minutes, mostly critising the Dravidian parties (DMK and AIADMK) and reiterating the promises made in his manifesto. Interestingly, the candidate didn't speak a word at the rally.

Haasan had earlier said that he doesn't want to contest the Lok Sabha elections, saying he preferred to be the chariot-puller rather than the chariot. But can his star face alone save the party from drowning in the choppy waters? 

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Tamil Nadu is no stranger to cinestars taking the political plunge and later emerging as stalwarts of Dravidian politics. Joining the bandwagon, Haasan and Rajinikanth expressed an interest in entering politics in 2017. But while a still-reluctant Rajinikanth went back to focus on his film career, Haasan went ahead and launched his party. 

The state is bracing for a battle of alliances (DMK-Congress versus AIADMK-BJP) this time and Haasan's party is going it alone, limiting its chances. Ever since Haasan accused the major parties of corruption, the AIADMK and DMK have been aggressively opposing him. 

It is a battle on many fronts.

The MNM is hampered by the absence of recognisable faces among its candidates who include IAS officers, teachers and activists. The party also lacks the support of grassroots workers as it has failed to make inroads into the interiors of the state. The party machinery is so weak that the MNM even lacks booth workers in many places, say some observers. Then there is the internal politics that led to one of the party's erstwhile members, a city-based entrepreneur CK Kumaravel, quitting the party.

"I don't think there is a chance for him to win even a single seat. The type of polarisation you see between the DMK and the AIADMK ensures there is no space for him. He takes an intellectual stance on issues which is good for media coverage but not in terms of electoral support. While he is extremely popular as an actor, I am not sure he holds the same mass appeal for voters as the other actor-turned-politicians had,” said psephologist Sandeep Shastri.

In his manifesto, Haasan made tall promises of lifting people from the state out of poverty, providing 50 lakh jobs, and ensuring female farmers get equal wages among others. But these promises seem far-fetched without any roadmap for their implementation. 

Take for example the promise of ensuring equal wage for female farmers. In India, agriculture falls under the unorganised sector where women tilling the fields are not even considered "farmers". Haasan is certain that he will ensure "equal wage", but how?

Although the party faces an uphill struggle at the polls, Haasan continues to exude hope, confident that "even his eyes can garner votes". If only confidence can win elections...



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  • One Vote

    Kamal haasan has always paid his taxes dutifully
    3 years ago reply
  • Murthy

    'Captain' Vijay Kant
    3 years ago reply
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