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Kamal Haasan launches Makkal Needhi Maiam: Will it be a political blockbuster in Tamil Nadu?

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    Chennai, Feb 22: Tamil Nadu's favourite "nayakan" has finally become a"neta". Kamal Haasan, 63, who has acted in the highly-acclaimed film, Nayakan (The Hero), in 1983 on Wednesday 'officially' took up the role of a neta (politician) by launching his party, Makkal Needhi Maiam, amid a huge crowd in Madurai, Tamil Nadu's political capital. While his fans and supporters welcomed the national award-winning actor's political debut in the state, which is undergoing a vacuum of a sort after the demise of late chief minister Jayalalithaa in December 2016, his critics are not very convinced about how he is going to create political magic in real life.

    Announcing the name of his party, unveiling its logo and flying its flag, Kamal said, "The newly founded Makkal Needhi Maiam is your party. It's here to stay and to make the change we all aspire for. Guide us to serve you."

    kamal

    Welcoming Kamal's entry into politics, veteran journalist N Ram told NDTV that "it was an interesting launch". Ram also stated that Kamal has prepared himself well and will survive the political battle.

    However, naysayers feel that the actor-politician is very "idealistic" in his approach as he has clearly stated that he wants to practice clean politics without any alliance with any "divisive" forces (read Hindutva politics as practiced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is trying its best to enter Tamil Nadu politics).

    It is a well-known fact that in Tamil Nadu, like in other states of the country, politics is mostly run by money power. "Who is going to give money to Kamal?" asked Kalyani Shankar, political commentator.

    Kamal himself has told the audience at the function on Wednesday that he won't give freebies to voters as is a popular practice in the state. "I will not give Rs 6,000 for a vote. Because I don't have the money. But even if I did, I won't give it to you," he told the crowd.

    Rather he stated that he would empower the people of Tamil Nadu. "I will not give you fish but will teach you to fish. I can create job opportunities that can make you philanthropists," Kamal added.

    Many are wondering that in Tamil Nadu where mostly the two big parties--the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the main opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)--have been sharing power among themselves for several decades now--an "outsider" like Kamal without much financial and political backing might prove to be a "misfit".

    A spokesperson of the AIADMK said that her party welcome Kamal's entry into politics, but doubtful about his vision and mission. "It is definitely going to be hard for Kamal to survive in Tamil Nadu politics after the initial euphoria surrounding his political debut frizzles out," stated the AIADMK spokesperson.

    However, a young lawyer, who is also politically active, said that a politician like Kamal is the need of the hour. "Yes, it is not going to be a cakewalk for Kamal in politics. But his intent is right and he should practice clean politics."

    To cheer his entry into politics, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, in spite of the ongoing tussle between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Delhi bureaucracy broke out recently over the alleged attack on the chief secretary, took out time to share the dais with Kamal in Madurai.

    "It's a matter of great honour and privilege for me to be present at the launch of this great political alternative started by Kamal Hassan. I've been a great fan of Kamal as a film personality. But I stand here today because he is a real-life hero. He is not only honest, but he also has a great vision.

    "I admire his courage to speak up and fight against injustice and communal forces in the country. I want to congratulate Kamal ji and his entire team. But more than that, I want to congratulate the people of Tamil Nadu," said Kejriwal.

    Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan sent a video message to Kamal to wish him luck in his future endeavours. "I believe Kamal's entry into public life will enrich the political arena of Tamil Nadu. I hope he will uphold the values of secularism, democracy and pluralistic society where all voices are heard," said Vijayan.

    His daughter and actor-musician, Shruti Haasan, tweeted to wish him success in politics.

    Outwardly the name of Kamal's party, Makkal Needhi Maiam, which roughly translates to People's Justice Centre, sounds like a forum for the people of the state. However, Kamal, like his party has a long way to go to establish their supremacy in politics in the state. Whether Kamal will be a successful politician like he has established himself to be a hugely popular and successful actor, producer and writer, only time will answer the question. Till then, Tamil Nadu keeps its fingers crossed.

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