The perception that the way to political power in Tamil Nadu is through Kollywood does not hold good anymore given the humiliating defeat of the parties floated by heroes Kamal Haasan and Vijayakanth in the 2021 assembly polls, said political analysts.
In the polls, Kamal Haasan’s party was not able to win any seat.
Kamal Haasan, touted as the Chief Ministerial candidate, was defeated by BJP candidate Vanathi Srinivasan in Coimbatore (South) constituency.
Similar was the case with DMDK floated by another actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth.
While Vijayakanth was not able to contest due to his health condition, his wife and party Treasurer Premalatha lost badly in Virudhachalam seat.
Interestingly, he won from that seat when he made the electoral debut several years back.
“There is no space for a new party floated by a movie hero now. The first two slots are occupied by the DMK and the AIADMK. The third slot is occupied by Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) floated by movie director turned politician Seeman,” political analysts Priyan and Raveendhran Dhuraiswamy told IANS.
“When AIADMK General Secretary and former Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and DMK President and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi were alive, Vijayakanth came as the third alternative. Seeman and Kamal Haasan came as the third alternative after the death of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi,” Dhuraiswamy said.
The analysts were of the unanimous view that Kamal Haasan by aligning with small parties like All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK) floated by movie hero R. Sarathkumar and a small party IJK blundered his chance to position himself as the third alternative for AIADMK and DMK.
The analysts said a third alternative party should go alone at the polls to grow and cited DMDK as an example that had notched up 10 per cent vote share at one point of time.
After DMDK aligned with AIADMK in 2011 and became the second largest party with 29 lawmakers, the partnership did not last long.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2016 assembly elections, DMDK aligned with a clutch of parties and began to go down.
In the recent assembly polls, DMDK partnered with the AMMK party and got a vote share of 0.43 per cent.
According to the analysts, the third place is now firmly occupied by Seeman. The NTK grew its vote share from about three per cent in 2019 Lok Sabha polls to about seven per cent in the assembly polls all by going it alone.
On the other hand, Kamal Haasan’s party which got about four per cent vote share in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 went down to about two per cent in the assembly polls.
“Kamal Haasan was a big brand but the party and its political strategists botched up that brand. From being a Chief Ministerial candidate, Kamal Haasan was reduced to a star campaigner in his Coimbatore (South) constituency,” a political strategist told IANS.
Even MNM’s former Vice President R. Mahendran in his resignation from the party post had said the party’s poll strategy firm and Kamal Haasan’s adivsor did not know or understand how to enhance “Brand Kamal”.
Creating a positive perception and a strong political brand even for a mass hero-politician is not an easy job, said brand and perception strategists.
“When actors float a party, their on-screen popularity gives them a leg up. But portability of their movie image to real life politician is difficult,” Harish Bijoor, brand expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, had told IANS.
This is where perception positioning of politicians comes into play.
According to Bijoor, while branding a human being, the inherent qualities of that person should match with what is being portrayed. If there is a clash between the two images then distrust comes in, as brand is basically all about trust.
Mahendran in an interview after quitting MNM said after flying in a chartered plane and helicopter, Kamal Haasan boarding an autorickshaw did not sync at the ground level.
According to Priyan, post 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Kamal Haasan had two years to build his party in Tamil Nadu. Instead of travelling across the state and meeting the people he was seen busy with his movie and television programme shoots.
The MNM party was not seen taking up people’s issues and carrying out protests.
“Being in the media and social media will not deliver votes. One has to be seen with the people at the ground level,” analysts said.
“Kamal Haasan is no more a primary force in the Tamil Nadu politics but only a subordinate force. He can align with Congress and can become a MP or an MLA,” Dhuraiswamy said.
“Even if actor Rajinikanth had contested then he would have got about 12 per cent vote share. Movie heroes are thinking that they can come to power like N.T. Rama Rao and M.G. Ramachandran (MGR, AIADMK founder). MGR was in politics for a very long time and became the Chief Minister several years after he had floated AIADMK,” Priyan said.
The analysts were of the view that there is no space for another Tamil movie hero Vijay in Tamil Nadu’s political arena.
Vijay might be nursing political ambitions but he had sent confusing signals in the past with his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and others, analysts pointed out.
Analysts were of the view that actors can join a political party and can become an MP or an MLA.
But dreaming about becoming Chief Minister overnight by floating a political party can happen only in the dream or tinsel world.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at email@example.com)