In the recently concluded urban local body polls in Tamil Nadu, alternative political forces — newer political parties started by actors and those standing separate from the Dravidian models, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress — received little impetus.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) dominated and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) ceded significant ground, however, parties such as Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and other smaller parties were bulldozed out of the way.
Responding to the result, Haasan, however, reminded people of their duty: “There is no pride in defeating people who are working hard to reform Tamil Nadu through corruption-free, transparent and skilled governance…People who do not strengthen the hand of alternative political forces lose the right to question the powers that be…”
While Haasan’s MNM failed to open an account, the NTK won nine town panchayat wards. The PMK had an enduring presence for several decades now, thanks to its loyal caste base. The party won five city corporation wards, 73 town panchayats and 48 municipal wards. Seeman has a small, but highly loyal following, nurtured by his fiery, often hate-filled, speeches against non-Tamil ethnicities.
Formed in February 2018, MNM is a recent entrant in Tamil Nadu’s political scene. Haasan’s political play is unique in several ways than one. For one, he is a self-proclaimed part-time politician, allocating his time to politics, cinema, and Bigg Boss reality show.
Haasan does tour extensively ahead of elections and makes all right noises, pandering to the essentially Dravidian and anti-BJP gallery in Tamil Nadu.
Still, his electorate is a smattering of urban upwardly mobile voters spread across the major cities in Tamil Nadu. His party received an encouraging response in the May 2019 Parliamentary polls, garnering over 3.79% vote share across the state.
In the 2021 Assembly polls, a combination of intra-party disunity, lack of clear political strategy and the DMK juggernaut put a halt to Haasan’s plans of making a dent on Dravidian political fortress.
Soon after the electoral debacle, a slew of high-profile exits ensued. R Mahendran, a rich vanilla exporter from Pollachi and Haasan’s right-hand man in politics, called it quits.
He accused Haasan of setting a disproportionately high store by an in-house consultant who “botched up” the strategy.
Following Mahendran, many in the executive committee within Haasan’s team said they were leaving. With a much-reduced strength and even fewer cadre on the ground, Haasan faced the local body polls. A week ahead of the polls, Haasan’s party put out press releases alleging distribution of all kinds of inducements from silver anklets to hot boxes to silk sarees.
Haasan has, however, vowed to not let the losses deter him.