Ulaganayagan vs Thalaivar: Why Kamal is no Rajini, and his political war cry may be different
Ulaganayagan vs Thalaivar: Why Kamal is no Rajini, and his political war cry may be different

Ulaganayagan vs Thalaivar: Why Kamal is no Rajini, and his political war cry may be different

Analysts tell TNM that if Kamal continues to drop hints without taking decisive steps, people will lose interest.

Is a battle of the superstars on the cards in Tamil Nadu? Could the cult heroes on-screen take their rivalry to the political field?  

While Rajinikanth has been dropping hints about joining politics for over 20 years, Kamal Haasan has in the last nine months become one of the fiercest critics of the Tamil Nadu government and politicians in general. Following weeks of speculation that he would take the plunge into politics, Kamal confirmed that he is indeed thinking about floating his own political party.

Both the stars have in the recent past urged their fans to prepare for war. While Rajinikanth had in May told his fans to return to their jobs and come back “when it’s time for war”, Kamal told his supporters in August to be ready to march towards Fort St George, where the Tamil Nadu Assembly is located.

But is the ‘Ulaganayagan’ any different from ‘Thalaivar’? Will his words translate into action? After all, the political hints that Rajini has been throwing for years, has fatigued not just the electorate but his die-hard fans as well.

Ramu Manivannan, political analyst and professor at Madras University points out that Kamal Haasan is a lot different from Rajinikanth in terms of his articulation of issues. “Kamal has a good articulation of public issues. He is connected with the issues he speaks on. Rajinikanth never engages with politicians. I don’t think he engages consistently. He soft pedals with the BJP. Being spiritual and religious is different from a political party.”

From the jallikattu protests and his opposition to Sasikala’s leadership to NEET, Kamal Haasan has been unafraid to voice his opinion on burning issues. “He appeals directly to the people who are discontent. He connects with people and tweets what they want to hear. He is honest in what he wants to do and he is definitely trying to garner a space for himself,” observes RK Radhakrishnan, Associate Editor of Frontline.

Kamal’s recent visit with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had the political sphere abuzz with speculation on his next steps. And while the star called his meeting with Pinarayi a “learning experience”, he has since clarified that no existing political party can match his ideology or his reformatory goals in politics.  

No defined ideology

Disagreeing with Kamal’s view that no party matches his ideology, both Ramu and Radhakrishnan argue that the actor should instead articulate his political position.  “He should say that he is not happy with any political party rather than saying no party matches his ideology. His meeting with Pinarayi – a meeting with a Marxist leader in Kerala is a big move. I think he should articulate his ideological position rather than saying he isn’t a Marxist or a socialist,” explains Ramu. 

Radhakrishnan, however, believes that Kamal has no defined ideology. The senior journalist says, “As of today, his ideology is calling politicians corrupt. He is making it up as he goes along. He has to put out his ideology clearly. He wants to do good for people. But this is the cornerstone of any political party in the world. He is a rationalist – this is every Dravidian party barring the AIADMK.”

So, will Kamal take the political plunge in the near future?

Radhakrishnan warns that if Kamal continues to drop hints without taking decisive steps, people will lose interest. “He has been giving broad hints for the last eight months or so. There is no way of knowing until you come out with a conference. Until then it will be seen as publicity for his TV serial or for his movies,” he notes. Observing that it is a critical juncture in Tamil Nadu politics, Radhakrishnan points out that if Kamal doesn’t take make his entry into politics now, he never will.

Ramu, however, posits that if the actor does dive into politics, it will not be easy. “The political vacuum is like a black hole in space. If anyone jumps into it, you can get sucked into it. He must have the magical pull to set up a party, organisation skills, mobilisation, and financial backing. Political parties are not formed like the stock market. It is about working with people,” says the political observer.

But the Tamil Nadu that was under the sway of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa is long gone, explains Radhakrishnan, adding that the state is not looking for a messiah. Arguing that there is a space for another political party in the state, he says, “Recent surveys have showed that AIADMK has lost vote share by 10 to 15% and some of it to TTV Dhinakaran. There is a 5 to 6% vote share left. These are the discerning voters, who are fed up with the DMK. Kamal realises that. His speech to do with corruption and day to day politics is well placed to take advantage of this. He is not doing justice if he doesn’t act upon it.”

Would Kamal’s political leap spur his film rival Rajinikanth to take the plunge as well?

Ramu Manivannan opines that if the professional rivals both join politics, they will be splitting votes in Tamil Nadu consciously. “Politics cannot be run like fan clubs,” he cautions.

Radhakrishnan, however, dismisses the idea of the superstar making a political entry. “Rajini is in his own zone. Like his Sri Raghavendrar movie, he wants to do his meditation in the Himalayas, make movies and that’s it. His habit, his outlook to life and his concerns have changed. Unless the BJP puts real pressure, I don’t see him joining politics,” he concludes.   

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