Bigg Boss Kamal Haasan’s Dilemma: To Be or Not to Be a Politician
Kamal Haasan is trying to play it safe on his foray in politics is concerned, will these calculated moves help?
Will he? Won’t he? That’s the question on everybody’s mind in Tamil Nadu, especially among the hardcore fans of film star Kamal Haasan.
He has been throwing enough hints that he wants to play an active role in Tamil Nadu politics post his bête noire Jayalalithaa’s demise. One or two tweets everyday reveals his mind that he would like to fill a political vacuum, if at all there is one, in the state.
Meeting Kejriwal No Big Deal for Tamil Media
But playing ten avatars in a movie like Dasavathaaram or as the main anchor dictating terms to the participants on the television show Bigg Boss Tamil, which has become popular thanks to Vijay TV, is easy for him given his long stint in the celluloid world but he is slowly realising that making a niche for himself in politics is a different cup of tea.
Neither the leading politicians of the state nor the mainstream media have given much importance to his meeting with Arvind Kejrivwal. The news only made it to inside pages with a photograph unlike the upcountry television channels which thought there is some ‘breaking news’.
Kejriwal’s Offer to Kamal
The Aam Aadmi Party has no presence in Tamil Nadu where there are more than 80 political parties, many of them caste-based. So Kejriwal is basically looking for an anchor to lean on.
During his short visit, it is stated by sources close to actor Kamal Haasan that Kejriwal came up with two proposals – that Kamal leads AAP in Tamil Nadu, which means all the organisational issues, including funding, would be ‘taken care of’. Or, if and when Kamal launches his political outfit, AAP would join hands and extend its fight against corruption in south India and try for an ‘Action Replay’ of Delhi.
But Kamal has remained non-committal on both and in his masterly way, has succeeded in sending out confusing signals to Kejriwal.
Kamal Lacks Charisma and Cadres
Tamil Nadu, unlike many northern states, has a different political history. It has been ruled by one or the other Dravidian party since the Congress was voted out in the 1960s, soon after the anti-Hindi agitation.
Mostly these parties – DMK or AIADMK– have survived due to a charismatic leadership, be it MG Ramachandran, Karunanidhi or Jayalalitha. All three of them had solid grounding in politics before they contested, won and became chief ministers. There was also a strong party set-up to back them up.
Issues like corruption, self-respect, commitment to any cause were all put on a backburner and these three political figures ruled the state for the last 50 years merely by the strength of their personal charisma, rhetorical skills, freebies and total control over the party cadre.
Except for some charisma – that too only among the urban middle class unlike Rajinikanth who until recently held total sway over the rural, illiterate and semi-literate masses – Kamal is neither a powerful speaker nor has he any party cadre to back him. He has not spelt out his stand on issues confronting the state either.
Is the state prepared for a leader who would fight for a single cause – like the anti-corruption movement which brought a relatively unknown Arvind Kejriwal to power in Delhi – is the million dollar question.
In Kamal’s case, he had never in the past raised his voice either for or against any issue confronting the state, whether it was the Cauvery dispute, or earlier the Sri Lankan ethnic war, or farmers’ agitation, etc. Haasan first raised his voice only when he faced problems with the Jayalalithaa government during the release of his film Vishwaroopam.
And even then, he only said:
If I am harassed anymore I will think of leaving the country and settling down elsewhere.
A furious Jayalalithaa hit back without mincing words:
This is a free country and anyone can go and live anywhere. My government will not give police protection wherever his films are screened.
There was speculation that he would join hands with Karunanidhi then. In fact, Mr Karunanidhi had invited him to the DMK fold way back in 1983 by writing a personal letter to him. But Kamal did not respond and the DMK did not press it further.
He had been making contradictory and confusing statements very often so much so that he became a butt of ridicule in the media. For example, whenever someone asked him if he would enter politics, he would always say, by showing his index finger:
I have entered politics long ago, when I cast my first vote in the election.
Then he would say he is a Communist and liberalist and EVR Periyar was his leader and no one else.
BJP’s Southward Inclination
Now, with Jayalalithaa gone and Karunanidhi confined to his Gopalapuram residence due to failing health, Kamal is trying to find a slot for himself. But his press briefings as well as his various tweets have only revealed his confused mind.
At one point, he even said:
My name is Kamal, which means Lotus. So I like Prime Minister Modi and his programmes. How can a lotus sway otherwise?
This was when he was roped in by the prime minister to promote Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The local BJP netas immediately celebrated thinking that he would join their party.
Kamal has also said he will be in politics if the elections are announced within 100 days. This seems unlikely as the BJP would not like to have elections soon in a state where it sees the possibility of getting some seats in the assembly by forging an alliance with the AIADMK. According to sources close to the chief minister, if as per the court directive the government has to face a floor test and loses it, the Assembly is unlikely to be dissolved and the Governor may merely keep it in a suspended state citing political instability.
The BJP leadership does not want to hand over the state on a platter to the DMK which already has 89 MLAs and will surely improve its strength and as per intelligence reports may even get a two-thirds majority if a snap poll is held.
Avoiding Mistakes Committed by Chiranjeevi and Vijayakanth
Stalin, the DMK working president, is waiting in the wings and with his long experience in the government, will be people’s first choice as the chief ministerial candidate. DMK also has a well-oiled party machinery and the cadre is itching for power as they have been out of it for too long.
The only hitch would be the impending 2G spectrum verdict which is expected on 25 October. This will seal DMK’s fate.
Kamal Haasan knows too well that he cannot match the popularity of Stalin, and DMK’s skills at fighting elections. As of now, he has no allies among the three main parties –AIADMK, DMK and Congress, all of whom have the money power and manpower to face elections. So, he will also wait for the 2G verdict before taking any decision.
He doesn’t want to commit the same mistake that his film world colleagues Vijayakanth and Chiranjeevi took by launching their own parties. Vijayakanth had a stint as Opposition leader with his DMDK forging an electoral alliance with Jayalalitha in 2009 and winning 30 odd seats. But after he fell out with her and when he contested the 2014 elections alone, his party was totally wiped out and he struggled to keep his flock together.
Chiranjeevi, by merging his Praja Rajyam Party with the Congress, had a brief respite and enjoyed a stint as the Union minister but he too became a non-entity in Andhra politics after the division of the state.
Kamal surely does not want to be like them and get lost in the quicksand of Tamil Nadu politics.
Neither Left, Nor Right: Which Way is Kamal Headed?
With three of his films waiting for release –Vishwaroopam Part 2, Sabash Naidu and another bilingual in Tamil and Telugu – plus his ambitious but non-starter historical film, Marudhu Pandi for which he had invited Queen Elizabeth herself for the muhurat many years ago – he has been at his wits’ end to raise money and complete these films.
He also suddenly went and met Kerala Chief Minister and Communist Party leader Pinarayi Vijayan recently. Kamal was asked what his ideology would be in politics. He dismissed any perceived leanings and said:
People concerned are not interested in left or right or any isms. I think if you look at people and their concerns, the isms will find its way.
Many are still trying to decipher its meaning. That’s Kamal Haasan for you. What he will say when he really gets into politics seriously is anybody’s guess.
(The writer is Bengaluru-based senior journalist and visiting professor at a few colleges, teaching media and communication. 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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