Kamal Hassan’s MNM taps villages ahead of Tamil Nadu civic polls
Despite drawing a blank in the recent Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly bypolls where all its candidates lost their deposits, the fledgling Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) of actor Kamal Hassan will contest the upcoming elections to local bodies in Tamil Nadu to carve out its own political space.
As part of its strategy, the party is reaching out to villages ahead of the civic polls expected in August. Last week, the party took part in the gram sabha meetings across the state with Kamal Hassan addressing audiences at 72 places through video conference from his office in Chennai.
The MNM’s vote share of 3.72% and reasonably good performance in urban pockets in the Lok Sabah elections has encouraged Kamal Hassan to push ahead.
In the Coimbatore Lok Sabah seat, MNM vice-president Dr R Mahendran got 1.44 lakh votes while in South Chennai former IAS officer, R Rangarajan polled 1.35 lakh votes. In places like Madurai, Salem and Tirupur, the party has secured sizeable chuck votes, rattling the Dravidian majors, ruling AIADMK and the opposition DMK.
The civic polls are the last platform for the MNM to prepare itself for the assembly elections due in 2021.
“We are concentrating on contesting the local body elections as it is a great opportunity for the party to reach out to the people, especially in the rural areas. Under Kamal’s leadership, the party is very clear about its electoral strategy. The people are with us and the civic elections will take the party to the next stage, making it the real alternative,” said Rangarajan, the former IAS officer and senior MNM senior functionary.
At present, the panchayats and other civic bodies, including city corporations, do not have elected representatives and are run by Special Officers. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had asked the state government to file an affidavit on the local bodies elections and posted the matter for July 17.
Earlier, the Madras high court had directed that polls be conducted by this May. The Government has been delaying the polls on grounds that delimitation of wards as per 2011 census was still on.
Kamal Hassan who had earlier toured the state attending gram sabhas, urged the people in his video address to force the AIADMK government to hold the civic elections and touched upon issues like the proposed storing of nuclear waste at the Kudankulam Atomic Power Station in Tirunelveli district.
“For storing nuclear waste, there is no precedent in the country. We are aware of what had happened across the world. The people need to be told where the nuclear waste is stored,” Kamal Hasan said.
Gram sabhas in Kudankulam have passed resolutions opposing their area becoming a dumping ground for radioactive material.
Although analysts are skeptical of Kamal Hassan posing a threat to the AIADMK and DMK, they concede that the civic polls present an opportunity for the MNM to gain greater political space.
“For a fledgling party, this is a right move. Contesting in the local body elections would help the party to occupy the required political space and make inroads into the rural areas. Without grass root support the MNM could not pose a threat to either to the AIADMK or the DMK,” analyst K Elangovan said.