Kamal’s dream of ‘Thamizh Nadu’: Experts say his policies are obscure

From his vision document, it is understandable MNM will not tread the path of doling out freebies

Kamal Haasan
Haasan said he had mild cough upon his return from the US and had got himself tested for COVID| PTI File

Two years after launching his party, Makkal Needhi Maiam, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan has now shared a vision document titled ‘Reimagining Thamizh Nadu’, in which he spoke about the vision and policies his party will be envisaging with an aim of facing the 2021 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

In a luncheon meeting with about 15 of his close confidants on Friday (February 28), Kamal shared his four page vision document that has two aims: ‘Reimagining Thamizh Nadu’ and ‘Revolutionising Politics’. The document said the party will follow a ‘centrist’ ideology.

Change in nomenclature

It seems that if Kamal comes to power, the first change he will make is to change the English spelling of the state. Currently, the state’s name is spelt and written as ‘Tamil Nadu’ in English, but Kamal has been trying to stress on the way it is written and pronounced in Tamil, ‘Thamizh Nadu’.

This is evident from his vision document in which the state’s name has been written as ‘Thamizh Nadu’. This, according to many Tamil scholars, is unnecessary.

Moreover, his ideology of being a ‘centrist’ is itself an obscuring one.

“Being leftist demands ‘everything for everyone’. Being rightist urges ‘nothing to anyone’. But what is being centre? Are you going to shift your stand according to issues?” asked noted economist J Jeyaranjan.

From his vision document, it is understandable that his party will not tread on the path of doling out freebies.

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“We need to stop doling out mere benefits and empower our people with platforms to help them achieve more via ambition and enterprise. Only then will our qualified youth get appropriate work and not odd jobs,” the document said.

Historically, the affluent classes have always received freebies in ways such as managing temples, through their English medium education and services to the British, said Jeyaranjan.

“When the financially weaker classes started to progress in the last 50 years, they (affluent classes) began criticising free rice schemes as ‘freebies’. Working hard and earning is being portrayed as being opposite to receiving freebies. They started making the recipients of freebies feel guilty.

“They always say they will continue to enjoy the already-existing privilege, but others should work hard as well. But they never speak about that even though people worked hard, they never got what they wanted,” said Jeyaranjan.

Chennai, no more a Detroit?

It is a well-known fact that one-third of the country’s total automobile production takes place in Chennai and it has earned the city the sobriquet ‘Detroit of India’. Today, there are over 20 automotive manufacturers and more than 30 auto-component manufacturers in the city.

But, in the document, Kamal said Tamil Nadu has “lost its place of pride as the Detroit of India”. However, economists opine the slump in automobile sales has not just affected Tamil Nadu, but is a result of India’s overall economic performance.

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Economist Bhaskaran Krishnamoorthy said that in today’s scenario there is no need for separate clusters for each product.

“Concepts like ‘Detroit of India’ and ‘Manchester of south India’ are old. For instance, Coimbatore was called the ‘Manchester of south India’ since there were large number of textile companies there some two decades ago. But now, the companies have extended their presence in Erode and Salem. So there is no need to have a cluster in only one place. Now, anyone can start a business anywhere,” he said.

Swimming against Dravidian tide

From Day 1 since Kamal stepped into politics, he has maintained that he is against Dravidian politics.

After the state budget was presented this year, he tweeted: “Every man, woman, child and even an unborn child of Thamizh Nadu will have to bear a debt of ₹57,000. The two Dravidian parties who ruled and swindled alternatively are responsible.”

His vision document too reflected his opposition to the Dravidian parties. “The legacy of 50 years of Dravidian rule that served the state has run its course. We need new energy and leadership to be counted amongst the top in the country,” said the document.

Is he trying to say there’s no need of Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu anymore?

“That is what anyone who steps into politics says; that they will replace the existing parties. Even former chief ministers M Karunanidhi and MG Ramachandran said that. Otherwise, the existence of the new entrants will be questioned,” said Jeyaranjan.

Enterprise economy

For his ‘centrist’ ideology, Kamal is set to take ‘enterprise economy’ as his economic policy. According to him, enterprise economy “seeks to eradicate poverty and generate jobs for every citizen, including those that are in the ambit of the traditional job market, like housewives and students”.

The document said the time has come to pay housewives for their job and that his party shall ensure that.

“My enterprise economy model will put Thamizh Nadu on the path to become a $1 trillion GSDP (PPP) and transform Thamizh Nadu into 1 Trillion Nadu,” he said in the document.

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The document said the world is in the midst of an enterprise revolution, but “Thamizh Nadu seems to have missed the bus”.

“Our enterprise economic model will go down as the biggest socio-economic revolution ever in the history of Thamizh Nadu. It is the best and the most honest possible answer to all questions related to Thamizh Nadu’s future,” the document added.

On this, economist Krishnamoorthy said, “I think the actor means ‘vibrant’ or ‘dynamic’ economy when he says ‘enterprise economy’. He hopes by creating more employers and owners, he can revive the economy and end unemployment. But its practicality is doubtful.”