Kamal Haasan isn't about to win over confused Tamil Nadu voters — unless he ups his political game

Even as superstar Rajnikanth vacillates over entering politics, his counterpart Kamal Haasan has taken the plunge to cash in on the Tamil Nadu voter's search for a worthy successor to the late J Jayalalithaa.

The more Rajnikanth has dithered, the deeper seemingly has become Kamal’s aspiration and resolve to make it big in politics. Seeing the mess created by Jayalalithaa’s henchmen (even as they make a mockery of her legacy), Kamal sensed a unique opportunity. However, while the time seems ripe, present indications point to Haasan not being cut out for the rat race that is politics.

Kamal Haasa. Image via Firstpost

Kamal Haasan. File Photo

Kamal Haasan is no stranger to controversies. He got on Jayalalithaa's wrong side, and has a tendency to shoot his mouth off. He most recently stirred up a hornet’s nest with a column in the Tamil weekly Anand Viketan: media reports stated the actor wrote that while right wing outfits would earlier argue without violence, now, “extremism has spread into their camp as well”.

In the run-up to his 63rd birthday on 7 November, Kamal built up hype around a big announcement he'd make — one that would set the political scene aflutter. When the time came, however, the Kollywood superstar merely said that his decision to enter politics was final. He also launched a whistle-blower app as "an online platform for interaction with the public" where they could report corruption they encountered.

How inputs on the app would be translated into action and with what level of checks is at present, shrouded in mystery.

Spurning the BJP and breaking bread instead with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kamal angered the saffron-ites no end. The saffron brigade as made their displeasure evident: BJP MP Vinay Katiyar called him “mentally unstable”, a lawyer in Varanasi filed a case against him for “hurting” religious sentiments, and Hindu Mahasabha vice president Ashok Sharma went to the extent of saying that he wanted the veteran actor to be shot dead.

Kamal Haasan’s response to all of this was: “If we ask them questions, they call us anti-nationals and want to put us in jail. Now since there is no space in jails, they want to shoot us and kill us... but in a democracy, everyone has a right to express one’s mind.”

To be naive is no virtue in politics — and Kamal will soon realise this to his cost.

The inescapable impression is that Kamal Haasan does not know what he wants. He is critical of the current AIADMK leadership, mocks at Chief Minister E Palanisamy and his deputy O Panneerselvam (who, until recently, led two warring factions). He was leaning towards the DMK but soon realised that he was being cold-shouldered. He has shown no ideological affinity with the Left, although he recently dined with CPM leaders with much fanfare. He lacks a concrete, implementable action plan that can sway the masses.

In a climate where politics is a controlled by wheeler-dealers and cut-throat hypocrites, Kamal Haasan is a babe in the woods. He neither has the guile nor an army of musclemen to take him through turbulent waters. He says he would not admit the corrupt and criminals into his party as and when he forms it — but has no clue how he'll deal with intrigues by his rivals.

Recently, when Arvind Kejriwal flew into Chennai to meet him over lunch, Kamal Haasan realised that the AAP leader wanted to use him to gain a foothold for his party in Tamil Nadu. Nothing more was thereafter heard about the relationship.

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘soft corner’ for the post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK is wearing off and he is gravitating towards the DMK with as many as 39 Lok Sabha seats at stake in the 2019 general elections, ideally the BJP is looking to forge links with Rajinikanth to lead the party in Tamil Nadu. But Rajini realises that the BJP is a non-entity in the state with no real future. At best, Rajini could set up a party that may align with the BJP, but that too is seemingly a tall order.

As for the AIADMK faction led by Sasikala’s nephew and protégé TTV Dhinakaran, the less said the better.

One thing is certain, however. With Rajinikanth’s mystical appeal, he is — as of now — a bigger bet than Kamal Haasan.

Mercifully, Tamil Nadu elections are far away and political alignments could change by then. The sense of unhappiness with the Palanisamy government is growing. Indeed, uncertainty looms large in Tamil Nadu and Kamal Haasan is not about to enthuse the utterly confused voters unless he learns the ropes quickly and with a level of maturity that one does not (so far) expect from him.

Updated Date: Nov 08, 2017 19:42 PM

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