TN: Why DMK, Kamal prefer to go it alone

Even as Kamal spoke of the glory of Dravidian culture that August evening, watched from the audience by his friend and fellow political aspirant Rajinikanth, his ideological proximity to the DMK was evident. Kamal recalled  DMK leader M Karunanidhi asking him to join his party in the 1980s, hinting at the close friendship he enjoyed with the DMK patriarch.
In August 2017, months before he formally announced his entry into politics, Kamal Haasan sat next to DMK’s then working president MK Stalin at the 75th anniversary function of the Dravidian party mouthpiece 'Murasoli'.
 
It happened in the middle of an intense war of words between the actor and the AIADMK leaders, who challenged Kamal to enter politics and prove his mettle rather than hiding behind his Twitter handle.
 
Even as Kamal spoke of the glory of Dravidian culture that August evening, watched from the audience by his friend and fellow political aspirant Rajinikanth, his ideological proximity to the DMK was evident. Kamal recalled  DMK leader M Karunanidhi asking him to join his party in the 1980s, hinting at the close friendship he enjoyed with the DMK patriarch.
 
Fast-forward to December 2018, when Kamal, heading his own political outfit  'Makkal Needhi Maiam', chose to skip the function at DMK headquarters to unveil the statue of the late Karunanidhi.
 
Prior to the function, talks were abuzz that he would join the DMK-led rainbow coalition that had Congress, the Communists and other outfits like the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) led by the dalit leader Thirumavalavan. But Kamal’s absence was a clear indication that he would not be a likely constituent of the DMK-led alliance.
 
Stalin may have dubbed MNM “a paper flower”, but Kamal ticked all the right boxes to be a part of the DMK alliance. Besides his proximity to opposition leaders determined to stop Narendra Modi and the BJP from returning to power, there was the unmistakable ideological synchronicity.
 
The alliance would also favour Kamal. As a newcomer, the actor would have the right platform to enter electoral politics, while the DMK would have found in Kamal the star power it needs to ensure a clean sweep of the 39 Lok Sabha seats and ensure its participation in the central government either as an important Congress ally or a constituent of the Federal Front.
 
Kamal’s absence at the statue unveiling only indicated two things: notwithstanding the invite to the event, he is unlikely to enjoy the same reception as the others, now that he is a political leader and a competitor to the Chief Minister’s chair as Stalin.
 
Of course, the DMK leader is in poll position to win the elections –either to the Assembly as a whole or to the 20 constituencies to which elections could be held along with the Lok Sabha polls. But it is unlikely that Stalin would let Kamal use the alliance as a springboard. DMK’s allies, including the Congress, have openly endorsed Stalin as their Chief Ministerial candidate and have no aspirations to the position. The same cannot be said about Kamal.

Dirty baggage

Kamal is aware that he should compete with Stalin rather than joining the alliance, a reason why he launched the strongest attack on the DMK yet. “We’re not prepared to carry the DMK’s dirty baggage,” Kamal said last week, giving a clear indication that he would choose organic growth as a political force rather than giving in to expediency.
 
Though there are voices within MNM favouring an alliance with DMK –something the Congress seems to prefer more than their Dravidian partner, Kamal knows that he has nothing to lose by fighting the Lok Sabha polls alone. He would look back at 2006 and take heart from his fellow actor-politician Vijayakanth’s experience.
 
Vijayakanth, like Kamal now, entered the 2006 elections as an unknown quantity but won 10% vote share and entered the Assembly by winning the Virudhachalam Assembly constituency, considered an AIADMK stronghold. Keen to decimate the DMK, Jayalalithaa forged an alliance with Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) in 2011 and made the actor-politician the opposition leader.

Cong overtures

As we write this, Congress leaders have been making overtures to Kamal Haasan to join their alliance. Rumours are rife that the grand old party is even prepared to give two out of eight Lok Sabha seats it has brokered with the DMK to make sure the rainbow alliance sweeps the polls and bolsters the chances of a Congress-led alliance at the Centre.
 
There was even a buzz of excitement when Stalin and Kamal met briefly during Rajinikanth's daughter’s wedding a few days ago. But it looks all but certain that the more entrenched Dravidian party and the fledgling outfit of the film star would prefer to go it alone, at least in this election.
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