Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan on Wednesday made his plunge into politics formal, with the launch of his political party 'Makkal Needhi Maiam' (People Justice Centre), which, Haasan claims, will seek to provide governance free of corruption, stop playing games on the basis of religion and castes, and adopt a centrist approach without swaying Left or Right too much. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who endorsed Haasan's party, was present at the floating of the new party in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
Haasan also declared that he would not indulge in the politics of "freebies", a practice the Dravidian parties have made famous in Tamil Nadu. "I am not your leader, I am your tool... this gathering is full of leaders," Haasan said moments before announcing the party's name.
Here are the top 10 developments around the launch of Kamal Haasan's new political party:
1) 'No permanent CM if my party is voted to power': In a 45-minute speech, Kamal Haasan said his party would be the army for Tamilians' war for justice. "Kejriwal has started my campaign today itself. As a courtesy, I wanted to avoid saying certain things, but Kejriwal has launched my political campaign because he knows time is short for me."
Replying to questions from his fans, Haasan said he would serve the people of Tamil Nadu till his last and would like to leave a party for the next three or four generations. "There will be no permanent chief ministers if my party is voted to power," he said.
Haasan said his outfit was committed to politics free from "games of caste and religion" and would focus on good governance.
2) No cash-for-vote: Referring to the cash-for-vote practice apparently prevalent in the state, Haasan said he would not do any of that.
"You have undersold your vote. If you had voted for a good party, you would have got Rs 600,000 per year as income and not just Rs 6,000 per vote," he said.
3) Inspired by Gandhi and Ambedkar: When asked who his inspiration was -- Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi or Periyar E V Ramasamy -- the actor-turned-politician said he liked and was inspired by all, including Arvind Kejriwal, N Chandrababu Naidu, Pinarayi Vijayan, and Barack Obama.
Haasan said he wanted to start his party silently and move slowly towards campaigning. "There is no starvation for money, but for good-hearted people."
4) Focus on the basics and fighting corruption: Underlining the broad contours of what his party aimed to achieve, Haasan said: "Quality education, elimination of corruption, supply of regular electricity and removal of unemployment will be among the priorities. If you eliminate corruption, all this can be done."
Haasan said that all these years, he was in people's heart and now he wanted to be part of their residence. "I am the lamp in your house which does not flicker in winds of corruption," he said.
5) A centrist party and focus on Dravidian unity: Haasan said the six 'enjoining hands' symbol of his new political party 'Makkal Needhi Maiam' represented the six southern states. While speaking at the launch of his party, for which Haasan had "picked ideologies from everyone", the politician said he had kept his party's name 'Maiam' (Centre) because he did not belong to either the Left or the Right.
The six southern states Haasan was talking about are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
"People ask me what is Maiam, and if I am a Left or a Right. This is why I have kept my party's name 'Maiam', which means centre. The six hands in my party symbol represent six states and the star in the middle represents people," Haasan said.
On Monday, Haasan expressed confidence that he would succeed with his Dravidian brand of politics. "You will know when I make it a success," he told reporters when asked about the presence of Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu and how he could succeed with the same ideology. The top actor has time and again expressed his appreciation of the Dravidian ideology.
Last month, he had batted for unity among southern states under the "Dravidian" tag to leverage ties with the Centre. "It (Dravidian) is our identity, and it will give the southern states a leverage with the Centre," the actor had said.
The chief ministers of all southern states -- Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh -- were all 'Dravidians,' and there was no need to stake a claim that only Tamilian was 'Dravidian.' When the Dravidian identity is "celebrated" across South India, it would lead to a united "chorus" that would reach New Delhi, he had 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. #maiam #makkalneedhimaiam official website: https://t.co/cql8kgqGkk fb: https://t.co/2Gz1xRg5vf twitter: https://t.co/J9ywXrunOb pic.twitter.com/Xza62w4DcC— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) February 21, 2018
6) Haasan has no time for political war of words: Haasan refused to answer queries about criticisms by DMK leader M K Stalin that paper flowers did not have any fragrance or BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan's description of him as a bonsai tree and AIADMK minister D Jayakumar calling him a genetically modified seed that would not grow.
"Should I answer these critics or look at what we have to do," he said, adding that these remarks against him only showed how the opponents were angry about his entry into politics.
The actor took a dig at the Tamil Nadu government, saying that his government would not give "quarter" (liquor) to men and scooter to women.
In Tamil Nadu, the sale of liquor is carried out by the state government. Further, the government will launch its subsidised scooter scheme on Saturday.
"We have to think where we are going. We have facilitated school children to have access to liquor by opening liquor shops everywhere," he said.
7) Haasan advocates proper dialogue on Cauvery dispute: On the Cauvery river water dispute with Karnataka, the new political leader said if proper dialogue is held, then Tamil Nadu could get the water it needs.
Last week, Haasan had expressed shock at the Supreme Court's verdict on the Cauvery River water dispute that reduced Tamil Nadu's share in the disputed waters. "I am also shocked at the reduction in the supply of water."
"I have to get more details about the actual judgement but I think the Supreme Court firmly said that water would not be owned by any state. That's a consoling factor," Haasan had said at a press conference.
In its verdict on the dispute earlier the same day, the Supreme Court allocated an additional 14.75 TMC of river water to the state of Karnataka and reduced Tamil Nadu's share from 192 TMC to 177.25 TMC. The parties to the dispute were the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, which challenged the 2007 order of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) on the sharing of Cauvery, the Ganga of southern India.
8) Kejriwal confident that Haasan's party would beat AAP's record: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal declared that Kamal Haasan's newly launched political party would break the record of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in winning the majority of seats in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Kejriwal was one of the political dignitaries who attended the launch of Haasan's party in Madurai.
Addressing the huge gathering of supporters, Kejriwal said, "When we started the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), within one year in the elections, people of Delhi rejected BJP and Congress and gave 67 out of 70 seats to AAP. By the kind of response I am seeing today, I am sure people of Tamil Nadu will break the record of people of Delhi."
The Delhi Chief Minister congratulated Haasan and his team for starting the "political alternative" and hailed the actor as a "real-life hero."
Kejriwal also claimed that both major parties of Tamil Nadu -- the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) -- were corrupt. He added, "I congratulate the people of Tamil Nadu because now you don't have to vote for corrupt parties, you can vote for an honest party."
AAP's Tamil Nadu unit chief, Somnath Bharti, who also shared the dais, noted a renewed hope in people and wished luck to Hassan on his political journey.
9) Kerala CM welcomes Kamal's entry into politics: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan extended his greetings and wishes to actor Kamal Haasan on the launch of his political party, and hoped his party would uphold the ideals of secularism, democracy, and pluralism.
In his message, broadcast through video at the public meeting where Kamal launched his party, Vijayan expressed the hope that his entry into politics would enrich the political life in Tamil Nadu. Starting his greetings with a few remarks in Tamil, the Kerala Chief Minister said he felt honoured to convey his greetings to Haasan, who was launching a political party to serve the people. "He is dear to me and the people of Kerala also," he said.
Recalling that Haasan started his film career in Kerala, Vijayan said he had acted as a bridge between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He said Tamil Nadu was known for the social and political reformist movements, which had an effect in Kerala politics, too.
"I am sure his entry into political life will enrich the political life of Tamil Nadu and hope he will uphold ideals of secularism, democracy, and pluralism in his politics," Vijayan said.
10) Kamal begins political journey from Kalam's house: Kamal Haasan formally began his political journey from former President late A P J Abdul Kalam's residence at Rameswaram, where he met the former President's elder brother and other family members. "Greatness can come from simple beginnings," he said.
"Actually, it will come only from simplicity. Glad to start my journey from a great man's simple abode," the actor added in a tweet.
However, his second halt at the government school in Mandapam, where Kalam studied, got cancelled as the district administration did not give permission.
A leader of a Hindu outfit said they had opposed Kamal's visit to the school as he was trying to gain political mileage and nothing more.
Later, addressing the fishing community in Rameswaram, Haasan said that it was one of the most important industries in Tamil Nadu. He would be back to listen to the suggestions made by the fisherfolk.
With agency inputs