Tamil Nadu

We are the first front by virtue of people and capacity to deliver: Kamal Haasan

Makkal Neethi Maiam president Kamal Hassan gestures during an interview with “The Hindu” in Chennai on March 13, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PICHUMANI K

Politics seems to sit very well on Kamal Haasan. A ‘newbie’ in politics, this veteran of cinema, is comfortable with the new skin he wears. He says he hit the ground running with the launch of his party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam, in 2018, and he’s been running since. Things are hectic, possibly more than ever, but his demeanour says “relaxed” and “confident”. Having skimmed off a double digit polling percentage in Coimbatore and South Chennai constituencies in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he believes his party has grown in strength with love from the people. Here, he discusses, with The Hindu his ideology, reasons for choice of candidates, caste-politics in Tamil Nadu and missing his long-time friend Rajinikanth’s company in politics.

Some excerpts:

What is your ideology? Do you believe in a left-right ideological spectrum?

We do believe that the left and right exist and they have their virtues. We have criticisms also. But, we have this vantage position of ‘centrism’, which allows us to place people before even ideologies. This is the virtue and strength of centrism, which is fast gaining momentum in world politics.

Also read | Not given up on Dravidian ideology, says Kamal Haasan

At the same time, let me tell you that all ‘isms’ are works in progress. They do not offer complete resolution for all problems. So we are also use yet another approach and an ideology towards addressing the maladies of people. Many governments are successfully trying it. Many scholars, American scholars do vouchsafe for the values of centrism.

Is your manifesto/agenda a completion of schemes for social development and upliftment?

Yes. It's an inclusive politics, which doesn't exclude anyone. We don't start by saying this is not for them. It is not an exclusive club. It incorporates everybody's well being. It's not state welfare, but a welfare state.

Watch | Rapid fire with Kamal Haasan

You are taking on two Dravidian parties in Dravidian land. Do you find both AIADMK and DMK problematic?

The word Dravidian is just rhetoric first used by the Justice Party. It's an anthropological description. Everyone who speaks Tamil and is dark skinned and has thick lips, like we are in this room, are qualified to be Dravidians. I think Dravidianism cannot be limited to two or three parties or Tamil Nadu alone. I think the word Dravidian — as an anthropological word — applies to the whole nation and is pan-national.

Also read | Not correct to say I only criticise AIADMK, says Kamal Haasan

Do you not subscribe to the idea of ‘Brahmin-non-Brahmin’ politics as it is understood here?

Brahmin-non- Brahmin politics is so limited — it will go nowhere. It has no wheels, no vision. We don't have to re-invent anything — our Constitution is robust enough and was written by very wise people who understood that caste is here to stay for some more time. So, I think we are waiting it out and it's happening now. People with designs are trying to hark back to the regressive times because it's easier to manipulate masses with these kinds of tools, which are archaic actually.

Do you believe that the MNM front that you've cobbled together is a third front of sorts?

It's the very first front. It is only by virtue of calculations and data that you call it the third front. But, by virtue of people and capacity to deliver, we are the first front. The other party has 33% criminality in candidates already. And that is the crowd that you're going to vote for. You don't even have to look at the records…the demeanour itself is expressive enough for us to understand their background. It is criminal, and it is showing in their deeds and their hasty decisions.

Also read | Kamal Haasan is third front’s CM candidate, says Sarathkumar

Are you looking to become the CM in 2021 or you are in for the long run and eventually, even play a role in the Centre?

We are here for a long run; otherwise, I wouldn't have started a party. I would have attached myself to something existing [party]. We came with a symbol and an ideology, which will last at least another century. I don't say that these isms are a perfect solution for all the ills of the society. We must arrive at something…when Marx and Engels used the phrase ‘Brothers of the world unite’ and changed it to ‘Workers of the World unite’ they knew that it should last another 100 years.

Yes, I am a man of the moment and this is the party of the moment. And that moment in political history could be 100 years or 200 years. But, we must at least have that kind of longevity before you arrive at a major decision in life. It's not that I haven't been thinking of entering politics but I did not, because I thought change would happen with the available resources in politics. But, there is further and further criminalisation that it deserves a reasoned set of people to step in and take up this civic duty.

Also read | MNM is third largest party in Tamil Nadu: Kamal Haasan

Do you disagree with the Dravidian parties in terms of their stated ideology leaving out corruption?

They are both captives of and a requirement of the time. They are the linear progressions of Justice Party So, these are a group of people who really felt the discrimination … and that angle had to be changed.

The DMK sprang out of the DK. And from that another branch broke out – AIADMK. The first difference of opinion was not ideological but it was about corruption. The dissent of MGR was due to rampant corruption. It has been questioned again by many other parties, including us, now. Constant vigil is a part of the ‘to-do’ list in a democracy and it is not done by a commissioned group ,but by the people themselves.

Also read | Kamal Haasan releases ‘rate card of bribery’ in Tamil Nadu

MNM’s candidate list presents a varied, mixed bag with people across professions, age groups, gender and minorities. What went into the candidate selection process ?

First, we see if they have an inclination to do something for the people. If we had placed their affluence before anything else, then most of them would not have been selected. Some of them are still working to make ends meet. Their track record shows that they've already done what politicians usually promise to do after they are elected. Within their limited powers, they've already served the people, and want to do more. And they already have plans. And these are people who are going to enhance our manifesto, merely by participation. They are not going to bring in finance, but the tenacity of the purpose will energise our engine to go forward. There are doctors… there are disillusioned IAS officers, who are very unhappy with the government. And, one of them still has service of eight to nine years. He relinquished all of it to join the party.V. Ponraj was a category G. Scientist with government. He has sat with Mr. Kalam and designed a vision for the nation. These are the kinds of people who are working with us. It is a synergy of various thoughts and intent. That's why these are people who have been advocates and those who were part of government who have now become part of us. And when we come to power, they will present a critical analysis of our service to the people. And that is what is going to keep us awake. And not sleeping in our chair.


Your thoughts on internal reservation for Vanniyars?

It is a ‘bouncing cheque’, they can't encash it.

Why did you pick Coimbatore South constituency for yourself?

The reason why I chose Coimbatore South, out of the 234 constituencies is that it is the constituency affected worst by corruption by very notorious politicians… So I thought that needs to be directly challenged, if not attacked. Another reason is that Coimbatore has been bearing the brunt of communal disharmony clearly engineered by national parties, and they are also contesting there. It's a direct challenge.

Also read | Coimbatore South: a hotly contested Assembly seat

What would have been safe and silly would have been to go to Mylapore where I have my relatives and people of the same caste. I had to prove the point that I'm beyond caste, beyond community and beyond religious divides, and that's why I chose Coimbatore. A loto of civic work is pending there, they’ve been promised but never delivered. We want to deliver all of it to that people and set that place as an example of harmony and governance.

What are your thoughts about your manifesto?

We have already released 49 points of it. And we're being a little bit guarded, because everybody seems to be echoing whatever we are saying. Maybe all good ideas are similar, but I don't think so. I'll wait now. And then we'll give them a better choice.

Also read | Kamal Haasan accuses DMK of lifting MNM’s ideas

Are you disappointed that the Congress has not reciprocated to your party?

The disappointment should be Congress’ because they didn't get their due from their old partners. We would have given that was what we told them. And they would have shined better with us — ideologically, we are not too far apart.


Do you miss Mr. Rajinikanth in politics and would you have sparred in politics too?

No, we've never sparred. We've always chosen our parallel paths and waved at each other at opportune moments. And, it would have been similar to that. The choice of wanting to participate in electoral politics or not is very personal, and it is his decision. The reason why he chose not to enter politics is an irrefutable reason...of personal health.. So I think he stands where he stands and it is a good place to be in. I might go to him for an idea or two.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 3:54:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/tamil-nadu-assembly/kamal-haasan-interview-we-are-the-first-front-by-virtue-of-people-and-capacity-to-deliver/article34062838.ece

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