INTERVIEW | It’s opportunity, not opportunism: Kamal Haasan on contesting Tamil Nadu polls

Kamal Haasan defends his choice of timing to enter politics; says his first priority will be giving teeth to Lokayukta in TN

Published: 14th March 2021 04:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd March 2021 11:45 AM   |  A+A-

Actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam founder Kamal Haasan. (Photo | R Sathish Babu/EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Makkal Needhi Maiam founder Kamal Haasan is busy with back-toback meetings, making arrangements for the ensuing elections. Amid his tight schedule, he took some time out for an interaction with Express on his political plans and expectations.

Excerpts from the interview:

This is the first election since the death of M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. So, what are your party’s strategies?

Senior leaders who positioned themselves in the past were younger than me. Mr Karunanidhi was younger at one time. So was Ms Jayalalithaa. But they positioned themselves daringly in a field that had K Kamaraj and other seniors.

No one asked, “How dare she?” She did it and believed she was qualified for that position. That’s all it takes. I am qualified.

It does not matter which leader is alive or dead. And the fact is service to people is an exalted position, and I want to qualify for that.

Don’t you think entering politics only in the absence of senior leaders like M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa is an opportunistic move?

You can’t say it is opportunism. It is an opportunity given by the time to me. It happened so. That’s all. No one is going to live here forever. I have to ponder upon what is beyond my time.

Even when Karunanidhi was alive, he did not pass on the post of the party president to the next leader. He did not even give that position to his son.

We wonder if till the end, he doubted whether anyone else was suitable for the post.

Caste plays an important role in Tamil Nadu politics, even in selecting the candidates... How is your party going to act?

In our party’s application forms, we don’t have a column for caste. As a matter of fact, as a father, I refused to sign the column meant for both my daughters.

ALSO READ | Why choose criminals when you have righteous people, asks Kamal Haasan

I had left it as ‘Nil’... even the column for religion.

What do you think about reservation for communities translating into vote banks. What is your view on the 10.5 per cent reservation for Vanniyar community?

The reservation for the Vanniyar community is an electiontime eyewash. Allocating 10.5 per cent to a particular community without completing the caste-wise census is like giving a bouncing cheque.

It is like giving a cheque filled with an amount when there is no balance in the bank. It is a kind of cheating.

Is it not opportunism on your part to bank on MGR’s legacy?

Why would it be opportunism? I knew MGR well and he asked me whether I would like to get into politics. I just said that before the people.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I can own up from Gandhiji to anybody I want for inspiration.

Even if I respected my PR, I could take him as an example. If a leader can take up Chatrapati Shivaji for inspiration, I can take MGR.

I draw inspiration from APJ Abdul Kalam too. People who do not know the decades-long closeness between our families might call it opportunism.

You mooted the idea of giving an honorarium to housewives. Now, other political parties have made that promise to voters. How are you going to implement that scheme?

I agree that mooting an idea is not executing it. When I first spoke about that idea, they (other politicos) heckled me. Now, they are copying it.

I think Mahatma Gandhi’s saying is coming true: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I think we are close to winning.

How are you going to implement that idea? Can you specify the amount of money your party is ready to give as remuneration to housewives?

It is possible to implement that idea. First, our government will be much richer by its integrity and honesty. Because the amount stolen by these people is nearly Rs 5 lakh crore.

That is the debt of the State government. If we don’t do that, we would have enough money to run two Tamil Nadus.

IAS officers who devised schemes for many Chief Ministers are with us. So, we will announce our plan for that scheme soon.

What will be your first signature in the file as Chief Minister if the people give you a mandate to rule Tamil Nadu?

Giving teeth to the Lokayukta in TN will be our first duty.

How are you going to position yourself as the potential chief ministerial candidate, since there are already many contenders and some of them are established leaders in the State?

It is not about how many contenders are there. What matters is how many people have original and honest ideas for the people. And we have those ideas. That is why we are not the third choice but the very first choice the people have now. Our ideas and the candidates we have chosen for the elections are testimony to that.

About one-and-a-half years ago, when I was a nascent politician, the media straightaway demanded my manifesto to understand who I am. I told them I wouldn’t say it then because it might be plagiarised, and they laughed at my response.

I spoke about remuneration for housewives then. But that idea is being parroted by politicians now. That is why I did not reveal our ideas earlier.


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