Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan began a new innings on Thursday as he formally began seeking votes for his party, Makkal Needhi Maiam or MNM, along Chennai's IT Corridor for the Lok Sabha elections that begin next month.
His first stop was at the Tsunami Settlements which house the tsunami affected communities besides people dislocated after being evicted from encroached areas. Many, including elderly men and women, gathered here. An elderly woman told NDTV, "I came to listen to what Kamal has to say. I am not here to see the actor. Even if parties pay money we would vote for a party our mind directs us to."
On a road show atop a mini bus with his South Chennai candidate Rangarajan by his side, Kamal Haasan promised drinking water to all houses, a corruption free government and generation of jobs. He said, "By checking looting alone we can run two states. We would be corruption free. Along the IT Corridor alone we can generate two lakh jobs. Give us a chance we would prove ourselves. After being lazy for forty years they can't say how can we do this. We will do it."
Kamal Haasan is not contesting but has fielded 58 candidates; 40 for Lok Sabha and 18 for assembly by-elections, roping in a few smaller parties.
Kamal Haasan drew labourers and youngsters. As he moved to Velacherry, the heart of the software industry, many techies and youngsters gathered to listen to him. Nivedha, a skill developer, said, "I'd support Kamal Hassan. He wants to help the underprivileged." Another old man who stood listening to Kamal Haasan said, "If he comes it's good. It doesn't work if the same people keep coming. Good things would happen only when new people come."
Kamal and the candidate made a rooftop appearance only at the designated spots.
With fighting corruption and development as focus, Kamal Haasan chose to not align with the Dravidian arch rivals DMK and AIADMK. He had earlier commented, "I'd not want to taint my hands."
He had said no to the BJP too, saying saffron is not his colour. Initial indications of a tie up with the Congress didn't work out.
Three decades ago, Kamal Haasan turned his fan clubs into a welfare organization. Recently, he launched a whistleblower app to empower communities and had adopted a few villages to showcase his model of development.
With the two tallest leaders in Tamil Nadu politics, J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi, no more, many say there is space for fresh political thought and leadership in the state. It's a four-cornered contest. Kamal Haasan must be hoping these crowds would translate into votes and empower him to scale new heights in politics, just like his acclaimed film career.