What Kamal aims at goes beyond screen glamour — as he wishes to change a system bogged down by graft at the highest levels of government.
Actor Kamal Haasan has entered a political space that is fragmented after AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa’s death. Having taken months for his formal plunge, the actor has chosen to project himself on the reformist path, with the anti-corruption plank foremost. His joining the fray is in Tamil Nadu’s highest traditions — with a long history of association between films and politics as two scriptwriters and three actors have gone on to become chief ministers. What, however, is yet to be seen is whether an affinity for movie stars will still translate into votes in a more crowded political scene, where the other big silver screen star, Rajinikanth, may soon step in. What Kamal aims at goes beyond screen glamour — as he wishes to change a system bogged down by graft at the highest levels of government.
Beyond projecting himself as an anti-corruption fighter, Kamal has chosen a narrow platform to appeal to the atheistic Periyarist, Dravidian votebank. That places him directly in competition for one-half of Dravidian voters who regularly back the DMK. This also places him in no position to seek any pre-poll alliance or understanding with Rajini, his film contemporary for over 40 years. He has declared that politically he is neither left nor right, but at the centre, despite being seen in the company of Kerala’s Left CM Pinarayi Vijayan. His appeal is mainly to an electorate in shock after seeing a Tamil Nadu giant convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, even if the charges abated as she had died, but her companion and confidante is in jail.
These are early days yet for a political novitiate to know all the ropes but Kamal did seem a little presumptuous by claiming a link to the late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s legacy of morality and ethicality in public life by starting his political yatra from his humble Rameswaram abode. But Kamal wasn’t even seen at the People’s President’s funeral and he had only a passing association with the scientist who went on to become one of India’s most popular heads of state. With witty one-liners appealing to the audience, but in non-rhetorical style, Kamal has already set the tone for a politician connecting with people on the simplest terms. This straightaway means a change from Jaya’s style of exploiting charisma but remaining remote, and MGR’s mystique.
The hard part is, however, just beginning for Kamal and Rajini as they have to strive to translate their mass appeal into positive action on the EVM button. With Tamil Nadu likely to plunge into greater uncertainty if the court ruling goes against the Speaker’s decision to disqualify 18 AIADMK MLAs of the T.T.V. Dhinakaran faction, the state’s new leaders may have to face the people sooner rather than after a full five-year term in 2021, as the Lok Sabha elections are due to come up in just over a year.