Hours before he launched his two-year-old party's campaign for the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, Tamil film star-turned-politician Kamal Haasan attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the new parliament project for which he had laid the foundation stone recently.
The veteran actor and founder of Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) on Sunday asked what was the point of such a massive financial indulgence at a time when the country's economy was facing severe turbulence.
"Why a 1,000-crore new Parliament when half of India is hungry, losing livelihood due to coronavirus. When thousands died as the Great Wall of China was being built, the rulers said it was to protect people. To protect whom are you building the Rs1,000-crore Parliament? Please answer my honourable elected PM," Mr Haasan tweeted on Saturday.
On December 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed a ground-breaking ceremony in the heart of Delhi for the new parliament building, set to be the centrepiece of the Rs 20,000-crore project to refurbish the Central Vista of the national capital.
The construction of the building, however, cannot begin for now since the Supreme Court is hearing petitions challenging the project. Last week, it accused the government of "pushing forward aggressively" with the project ahead of the top court's decision.
The Tamil leader's attack on the project came hours before the launch of the first phase of his poll campaign from Madurai, the city where his party was launched over two years ago. The state elections are due in May 2021, with Mr Haasan himself likely to contest this time, making corruption, jobs, village development, and drinking water his MNM's key planks. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party won nearly 4 per cent votes.
Prime Minister Modi's BJP, which is allied with the ruling AIADMK, is looking to expand its footprint in a state that has remained largely elusive till now. Ahead of the assembly polls next year, the party has roped in top leaders like Tamil movie star Khushbu Sundar and has been trying to organise emotive rallies like the Vetri Vel Yatra.
Speaking about his own party's priorities, Mr Haasan today said: "Tamil Nadu remains degenerated. We would set it right. We are launching our campaign complying with government norms."
He sought to take lightly the campaign restrictions apparently placed in Madurai by authorities saying such "obstacles" weren't new to him or his party. He went on to say that "sluice gates cannot block flash floods".
When asked about possible ties with actor Rajinikanth's yet-to-be-named political party, Mr Haasan merely said, "Alliances will break and alliances will be forged. Now I can only say this."
On December 3, Rajinikanth said he will launch his long-anticipated political party in January, five months before the Tamil Nadu election. He promised that the new party will bring in "spiritual secular politics" with no caste or religion.