Well before the Tamil Nadu election date was announced, it was speculated that actor-politician Kamal Haasan would contest from a constituency in Chennai, where his party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) did well in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
The Velachery and Mylapore seats were among those mentioned.
Kamal Haasan has however chosen to look west instead, zeroing in on Coimbatore (South), where he will face off against the BJP’s Vanathi Srinivasan and the Congress’ MS Jayakumar in a high-profile contest.
Why did Kamal Haasan choose Coimbatore? One reason was that R Mahendran, his party’s Vice President, secured 23,838 votes while contesting the Coimbatore Lok Sabha seat.
Nevertheless, setting up shop in the southern city is not without its challenges. The most notable of these challenges is having to fight against the ‘outsider’ tag, particularly since Vanathi Srinivasan wears the ‘daughter of Kovai soil’ label proudly on her sleeve.
She has not missed the opportunity to rub it in either.
Over the weekend, when Kamal Haasan injured his foot (which was recently operated on and then reportedly stepped on by a fan during a campaign event) and had to be hospitalised, she sent him a basket of fruits to wish him a speedy recovery.
“It is our custom to take care of guests. We wish good health to him as he is our guest,” she said.
Kamal Haasan has hit back to say he is no outsider, but an Indian.
“Gandhiji is not Gujarati. He is my father,” he said, before getting in a swipe of his own, “What about the outsider who keeps coming into Tamil Nadu despite cries of ‘go back'”.
He was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose visits to Tamil Nadu often see #GoBackModi tending on social media.
Meanwhile, Kamal Haasan’s MNM cadre has pointed out that in ‘Sathi Leelavati’, one of the actor’s celebrated hits, he played the role of an orthopedic surgeon from Coimbatore.
They also pointed out that for an actor who has worked in films from different parts of the country and in different languages, to straightjacket and confine him to a particular city or region is unfair.
If Kamal Haasan does not taste success in this debut election, it could be a huge setback to his party’s future political prospects.
The Congress will need support from the DMK to ensure that neither Kamal nor ‘kamal‘ (the lotus, the BJP’s symbol) blooms in Coimbatore (South).