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Kamal Haasan’s Ambitious Plan To Unite Southern States Has Many Holes

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When Kamal Haasan launched his party ‘Makkal Needhi Maiam’ on the 21st of February, it’s perhaps the flag of his party that distilled his political vision. The flag has six hands joined together with a star in a black background between them.

Six hands, alternately red and white, joined together around a white star on a black background. Text on the right reads 'Makkal Needhi Maiam', the name of the party Haasan has floated.
The symbol on MNM’s flag. Image credit: Facebook/Makkal Needhi Maiam

Haasan clarified that the six hands represent the six South Indian states, which is being speculated to include the union territory of Puducherry, apart from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, and Kerala. The black, red, and white colours have long represented Dravidian politics. The star , Haasan said, “is the people” .The flag, one can deduce, is meant to show all the south Indian states getting justice (Needhi) as they start working together.

Haasan’s electoral politics might remain confined to Tamil Nadu for now, but he has made his intentions clear. The ideology reflected from his political columns and especially his flag indicates a call for pro-Dravidian alliance not only between politicians but also between people of the six states. Unfortunately, these states haven’t until now joined hands to take collective Dravidian reform as the 63-year-old wants. And this means the task ahead for him is going to be tough.

To be sure, the actor-turned-politician has earlier too batted on Dravidian ideology. In a column in January, he asked for collective South Indian unity, once the call of Periyar E V Ramaswamy, only perhaps in a softer tone. He said that Dravidians aren’t just the Tamilians, but include people from all the six states mentioned earlier. The Dravidian people, he explained, should love their languages but also keep a collective and unified Dravidian ideology.

He also referred to what was a talking point of the late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalitha: the high amount of tax paid by Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra getting used up by North India. So, in his column, he asked every South Indian state and especially their Chief Ministers to adopt a Dravidian identity, so their collective voices are heard seriously in New Delhi.

It is then natural to ask whether the other southern states that Kamal Haasan wants to take along on his political journey are ready for such a political venture.

Take Karnataka for example. The state was formed on a linguistic basis, but has never been politically dominated by typical regionalist parties. The INC, the BJP, and the JD(S) have always ruled this state, and none of these parties are linguistic in ideology. Kamal Haasan will need to struggle most in this state to carry people on the Dravidian tide.

Kerala will have a similar problem as Karnataka, as this state hasn’t even seen political Dravidism in its poll agenda. Since Kerala has been dominated by the Left, which is currently ruling, and Congress in alternate terms, the pitch of Haasan’s Maim whistle may fall flat in this coastal state.

Andhra Pradesh is the first state in India to be formed on a linguistic basis. But 2014 saw bifurcation of this state into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The reason for formation of Telangana is cited as improper distribution in revenue across the state. A state that has been formed on the basis of economic worries won’t easily heed to the collective Dravidian call of Haasan. The state gave up its united Telugu identity for a better financial position, and it might be a little naïve to expect to see the hands of AP and Telangana linked to other states of South India as Kamal Haasan wants.

Clearly, the new politician has lots of roadblocks ahead in his political revolution. Apart from bringing his collective Dravidism idea into reality, he has to remain centrist, forward-thinking, pro-poor, and a dominant factor in Indian politics. He has to make sure that any state doesn’t face difficulties from aloof or alien parties at the Centre. Thus, Kamal Haasan needs to struggle in order to rise in South Indian politics, especially when he has to keep both the ‘Kamal’ (BJP’s Lotus) and the ‘Hasta’ (INC’s Palm) at a distance.

The author is a part of the Youth Ki Awaaz Writers’ Training Program.

Featured image source: Facebook/Makkal Needhi Maiam
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