Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, who is also the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief, has ruled out an alliance with either the DMK or the AIADMK in the 2021 Assembly Elections in Tamil Nadu. "They have said that Kamal Haasan has ruled out alliances with Dravidian parties, there is a small correction in that. As long as the word 'Dravidam' is there in the national anthem, Dravidianism will exist. The correction is that 'no alliance with the kazhagams,'” said Kamal Haasan at an MNM meeting on Tuesday.
While it is unclear if Kamal will choose to go it alone - like he did in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections - or cobble together a Third Front for the Assembly polls, political experts say that his decision to not align with the ‘Kazhagams’ will cut into the anti-incumbency votes.
“What he actually means is that he won’t ally with the DMK, and if he contests, he will take away a chunk of votes that go to the DMK as an opposition. His role is very clear,” says Ramu Manivannan, Head of Department of Politics and Public Administration at Madras University. He adds that in a state election where the difference between winning or losing is a matter of a few thousand votes, Kamal can play spoiler.
RK Radhakrishnan, Associate Editor of Frontline, also says that Kamal Haasan will take away a part of the anti-incumbency vote. “We don’t know what his effectiveness will be in the coming elections, unless small parties join him or he has made any local alliance. But he has had too many distractions with Bigg Boss, and his movies. We see a man who has started a political party, and now it doesn’t have any direction. He will take away some anti-incumbency votes and that’s about it.”
Geetha Narayanan, a researcher points out that it is in the urban constituencies where Kamal’s MNM can create a dent. "Who votes for Kamal Haasan? Urban middle class. If you walk into any village, they will choose between the Rising Sun (DMK) or Two Leaves (AIADMK). I think he will split a few votes in urban areas, but he can't create any dent in rural areas. Traditional voters will go for their parties and then there is also the caste and money factor."
In its poll debut in 2019, MNM managed to garner an overall vote share of 3.72% in the Parliament Elections. But it was in the urban constituencies, where Kamal’s party put up an impressive fight, touching double digit vote share percentages.
C Rajashekaran, who was a key member of MNM before he quit in April 2018, however, says that Kamal Haasan is posturing and the latest statement is an attempt at bargaining with either the BJP or the DMK before the polls. “Kamal Haasan is a very good actor and a very bad politician. His desperation was exposed by his actions. Almost all his old guards have left. He has new comers in the party. What he is trying or attempting is he wants to be another Anbumani Ramadoss by showing his parliamentary vote share, and he wants to bargain either with the DMK or BJP.”
Alleging that Kamal Haasan has an eye on a Rajya Sabha seat, Rajasekharan says, “He has no policy or principles.He has lost his credibility with his flip-flops”
With actor Rajinikanth’s political debut looking doubtful, would some of those who have voted for him, choose Kamal instead? Geetha disagrees. “Kamal is a very different personality and his politics is very different. He indulges in intellectual discussion and many times does not take a stand. Rajinikanth's fans from the ‘80s wanted to contest in his party, they have also lost hope now. I don't think even Rajini has a vote bank among youngsters, who will vote for spiritual politics?” she said.