It is a well-known fact that actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan had a reverential relationship with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M Karunanidhi. Till the latter’s last days, the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder maintained a keen friendship with him but it died a slow death after Kamal’s entry into politics.
Today, it may appear that the DMK and Kamal are ideologically on the same page and yet attack one another using harsh language. The DMK suspects that Kamal’s reference to Godse is an attempt to create a polarisation. They fear it will divert the votes of the DMK to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Kamal was last seen at a DMK function on August 10, 2017, during the 75th anniversary celebration of ‘Murasoli,’ the party’s mouthpiece. It was also the last DMK event which the actor attended when Karunanidhi was alive.
Many then speculated that Kamal would join the DMK. In his speech, he said, if he had to join the party he could have when Karunanidhi asked him to do so through a telegram in 1983.
“But, then I did not join. After that Karunanidhi too did not bring up that topic. I think, I will get the same respect on this stage too,” he said at that function.
The actor was present during Karunanidhi’s hospitalisation and his eventual demise. Kamal, apparently making use of the vacuum, made an entry to politics. After his political avatar, Kamal started avoiding the programmes of the DMK.
For instance, though the DMK invited Kamal to take part in the unveiling of a Karunanidhi statue, he stayed away citing cyclone Gaja relief work. During a media conference, DMK chief MK Stalin was asked about Kamal’s political entry. Stalin, who had earlier vociferously attacked actor Rajinikanth, was but mellowed down in his response. Stalin had famously retorted to the Rajnikanth query by stating that ‘his [Rajnikanth’s] spiritual politics will be a nought in this Dravidian land.’ For Kamal, he just said, “there is no fragrance on paper flowers.”
Political observers believe Stalin may be nursing the idea of roping in Kamal into his alliance some time. Poet and DMK spokesperson Manushya Puthran refutes this theory. “Kamal’s entry into politics is his own decision. We never criticised that decision. We oppose him because, he, without knowing the history of the DMK, constantly makes unfounded allegations,” he said.
In an interview to a Tamil TV channel in February, Kamal said the DMK was a ‘corrupted party.’ That was the point where the verbal spat between the DMK and Kamal erupted. The very next day, Suba Veerapandian, general secretary, Dravidar Iyakka Thamizhar Peravai, said, “The parties which said they would destroy the DMK are gone without a trace. The voices which speak of destroying the DMK are very old but the ‘bodies’ keep changing.” He said Kamal’s opposition to the DMK would do no damage to the party.
Actor-turned-politician and legislator Vagai Chandrasekar criticised Kamal saying, “Does Kamal even know who was punished by the Supreme Court for corruption? Who is behind him and instigating? Is he black or saffron or saffron within the black? He is perplexed about his own stand.”
Suba Veerapandian and Chandrasekar told The Federal that the party had advised them against speaking to the media on Kamal.
Attack on Stalin
Then came Kamal’s major attack on Stalin in February. Kamal said Stalin was toeing his [Kamal’s line] by conducting grama sabhas. The Murasoli immediately retaliated by saying ‘Kamal knew nothing’ about the history of gram sabha meetings. The Murasoli said it was Karunanidhi who started such meetings in a small village called Vinnamangalam in Vellore.
In the days that followed, Stalin and Kamal were seen on the same stage during a wedding function of DMK’s Thiruvallur MLA. Subsequently, the verbal war between Stalin and Kamal subdued till Kamal started attacking Stalin yet again in March. During a programme, he said, “Yes, I am an actor. But an honest actor. Income tax paying actor. But if you ask Stalin, he will say ‘I am my father’s son.” However, after that, the DMK decided not to retaliate.
But some DMK leaders cannot stop criticising Kamal. “We criticise Kamal because we fear that the youth should not get cheated by his words,” says Manushya Puthran.
DMK spokesperson KS Radhakrishnan says, “on one side, Kamal continuously attacks the DMK. On the other, he hesitates to criticise our opposition parties. So, it is natural for us to nurse doubts about him and respond.”
Many Dravidian leaders have but attacked Kamal for his stance on reservation. The actor was at the receiving end of ire even before his political entry for his stated stance that reservation should be done away with. Suba Veerapandian says Kamal ‘is opposed to social justice.’ “He is opposed to the reservation system. We cannot accept him when he is opposed to social justice though he says he is an atheist,” he said in a TV interview.