If He Wants to Win, B’Day Boy Kamal Haasan Must Give These 3 Gifts

Happy birthday, Kamal Haasan! If the just-born politician wants to march on, he has to give the people something.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
Happy Birthday, Kamal Haasan!
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Kamal Haasan does not have a history of big birthday celebrations. As a star, he had urged his fans to do social work instead of coming to meet him on his birthdays and, as he celebrates his first birthday as a politician, he has done the same.

But the life of an actor is very different from the life of a politician.

Politicians need to keep giving gifts, often literally, before they receive one from the electorate and as he turns 64, Kamal may have to start gifting the people concrete politics over star dialogues.

First Gift: Winnable Candidates

So, what’s the first concrete political gift he can give Tamil Nadu? It will be names of candidates to 20 assembly constituencies that are likely to head into by-elections after the Madras High Court upheld the order disqualifying 18 dissident legislators of the AIADMK led by TTV Dhinakaran.

Electoral politics is a complex phenomenon and one that needs grassroots presence. A new party, like that of Kamal’s, needs winnable candidates at the grassroots level. It takes time to work and build strength in constituencies and an early start is important.

If he hopes to break through the organisation structure of the established parties, he needs candidates who can take up the fight at the grassroots level. He has already declared that his party will contest the bypolls, if and when they are held, but there seems to be no clear face for his party in these constituencies.

Does he have the candidates? Party insiders suggest that he is working on it, but do not reveal any further. The task is more difficult for Kamal Haasan because he has projected himself as the face of change, not just a change in administration, but a change in political culture.

Can he find candidates to represent that change and at the same time have the ability to take up a grassroots fight against those entrenched in these constituencies? It’s a tough ask, but it’s time that he started working on the contours and come out with the names of the candidates who can build on his persona.

This apart, he has already indicated that he is open to allies. He had unsuccessfully sent feelers to the Congress party, but got a cold response. The Congress made it clear that it’s with the tried and tested Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

So, why did he approach the Congress and not a regional party? There are a dime a dozen in Tamil Nadu including that of fellow actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth – but they may not be potential allies. This is because Kamal’s politics revolves around his persona and hence there is no space for any other leader, only followers.

Gift Two: Image That Invites Allies

It would be difficult for any credible political leader to accept such an alliance where they abdicate their political leadership and play second fiddle to the star. This is why the second gift Kamal Haasan needs – and this one only he can give himself – is to create an image that he can carry allies along.

Ideologically, Kamal Haasan’s politics has been consistent with the left, but even the left leadership is not convinced that it can electorally ally with him. The DMK has become a powerful pole for the anti-Modi political forces in the state and Kamal Haasan, at the moment, does not seem to have the ability to woo such forces to form an alliance with him.

Even here, the votes his party would poll in the by election to the 20 seats, if and when it happens, will determine if political players are willing to ally with him or not.

Nevertheless, alliances are the second political gift he needs to move forward.

Third Gift: Friendship With Rajinikanth

Finally, he may need to have a gift-return gift understanding with superstar Rajinikanth. As actors, they have both claimed to be friends, but can they have a friendship as politicians?

They may have ideological and personality differences, but they both claim to represent a change in political culture and seek an overthrow of conventional politics. This means they will both be fighting for the same section of the electorate that is tired of the political situation and culture.

Can they find common ground? An open alliance is highly unlikely, as neither can give up the leadership role – but a tacit understanding could help both.

So, Kamal Haasan may need to give or take three gifts – one from the people, one from the politicians and one from a fellow star-turned-politician – to march on as a just-born politician on his 64th birthday!

(The writer is an independent journalist. He can be reached @TMVRaghav . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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