New Delhi, March 30 : Tamil film icon Kamal Haasan loved performing diverse roles in his six-decade-long cinema career. And now, as he makes his debut in electoral politics, the constituency he has chosen is also diverse in every sense.
The electoral contest to choose the next legislator for Coimbatore (South), the most prestigious seat in the Manchester of South India for it includes the business district and the upscale areas, is nothing short of a blockbuster that Kamal Haasan is familiar with
Kamal Haasan’s entry has certainly created ripples in the constituency – which has a sizeable chunk of Gounders, Naickers, Chettiars, Mukulathors, Muslims, Christians, and North Indians – where he is being primarily challenged by Vanathi Srinivasan of BJP and Congress’ Mayura S Jayakumar.
Ironically, the man who projects his party, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), as an alternative to DMK and AIADMK is not taking them on directly but their alliance partners. AMMK has fielded Duraisamy (a) Challenger Durai, while Abdul Wahab is the NTK candidate
The MNM chief has a reason to pick the constituency – the Lok Sabha constituency of Coimbatore is where the then one-year-old party received maximum support with its candidate R Mahendran polling over 1.45 lakh votes.
Besides his own popularity as film star, Kamal Haasan is hoping Mahendran, who is contesting in near-by Singanallur, will help him win the seat and enter the Tamil Nadu assembly. The MNM feels a chunk of minority votes would come his way.
The opinion is split in the urban constituency that houses showrooms of almost all popular apparel and jewellery brands. Kamal Haasan appears the No. 1 choice for many first-time voters and youngsters as they feel his “change agent” plank is the need of the hour for Tamil Nadu.
“I think Kamal Haasan is a better candidate. He talks sense, and his ideas are fresh. And his contesting from my own constituency makes me very excited. I am sure he will be better than the existing politicians,” 24-year-old Ashraf told DH.
A few meters away, sitting outside a shop in upscale R S Puram, Krishna Kumar too believes Kamal Haasan can deliver and he should win from here, before being interrupted by Sreenivasan, in his late 50s. “I would like someone who is from Coimbatore to represent the constituency. It is easy to approach a local politician than a film star,” he argued.
Both Srinivasan and Jayakumar are known to the voters of Coimbatore (South) as they contested the 2016 elections as candidates of their respective parties and lost. That they are approachable and live within the city is an advantage for both, but no one is willing to take a guess on who has the edge.
anathi is banking on the “strong” organisational structure of the AIADMK and BJP in the constituency, besides hoping that the Gounders will consolidate behind her. She has also set eyes on votes from the north Indian community which has a mix of Rajasthanis, Gujaratis, and Punjabis.
Jayakumar is hoping that the alliance strength and consolidation of minorities will help him scrape through this time, at least. However, MNM says Kamal Haasan will receive support from all communities – the actor is campaigning extensively in the in the constituency.
“It is a very diverse and complex constituency. It is very difficult to predict what will happen. And no community votes en masse for any particular party. Even Muslims are divided here. One section had almost stopped voting for DMK after the 1998 blasts during which several youngsters were arrested and some are still languishing in jail. We do not know how they will vote this time,” Senthilnathan, a voter in the constituency, said.