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From Kodambakkam to Fort St George; acting their way to power

Thiruma's reasoning could not be dismissed as mere political frustration considering the 'rich' history of actors failing as politicians in the state.

From Kodambakkam to Fort St George; acting their way to power

VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan; Actor Vijay

CHENNAI: VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan has his reasons to be disenchanted with another member of the Kollywood attempting to have a crack at political success in the state.

As the tinsel world and media go gaga over actor Vijay offering a glimpse of what seemed like his political aspiration through is pep talk to the students, Thiruma subtly 'discredited' the speculation as a media overkill and said that anyone could enter politics, but it is a 'curse' of the state that some people here imagine that them being an actor is enough to become the state Chief Minister.

Thiruma's reasoning could not be dismissed as mere political frustration considering the 'rich' history of actors failing as politicians in the state. Barring the late matinee idol MGR and his successor J Jayalalithaa, both of whom went on to become Chief Minister multiple times, hardly many actors have managed to taste even reasonable political success in the last half a century in Tamil Nadu.

From Sivaji Ganesan, MGR's contemporary who briefly hobnobbed with the Congress before restricting to playing the lead on screen, the list of failed actors is daunting. S S Rajendran was also a yesteryear actor of the black and white age who got elected to the TN Legislative Assembly in both DMK and AIADMK and even once to the Rajya Sabha with DMK nomination before fading into political oblivion. The likes of K Bhagyaraj and T Rajendar are other actors engulfed by the vast political abyss of the state dominated by the Dravidian majors for over half a century.

Vijayakanth stood out; Seeman sustains

The chequered history of the state vis-à-vis actors taking the political plunge would be incomplete without a mention of Vijayakanth and director Seeman. One person who came close to the corridor of power was Vijayakanth. Launching his political outfit, Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam aka DMDK as a messiah of change, Vijayakanth won his maiden election from Vridachalam in 2006. He peaked in the 2011 Assembly election when he rose to the office of the Leader of Opposition with 29 MLAs a couple of years after his DMDK secured a mammoth 10% votes, highest by a party other than DMK and AIADMK. Naam Tamizhar Katchi chief coordinator Seeman was another stand out personality with commendable success in the realm of politics. Though his party did not secure a single MLA seat despite not shying away from any election since 2016, the political trajectory of Seeman, who banks solely on Tamil nationalism and to an extent Tamil racial exclusivity, in the Dravidian hinterland rose from one percentage to over six percent between two Assembly elections.

Strikingly, almost all the aforesaid actors, except MGR who was the propaganda secretary of the rationalism espousing DMK once, and Tamil nationalist Seeman, most of the prominent faces of kollywood were bereft of strong ideological mooring. Apart from decrying corruption, most of the actors have failed to set a political narrative against the Dravidian mainstream. Other than MGR, the rest had only managed to extract their share of the anti-Dravidian votes from the political mainstream, allowing the writ of the Dravidian majors to run large in the state for 50 enviable years. It would not be an understatement to call the brief success of the seasonal politicians a flash in the pan.

'Centrist' Kamal Haasan who launched his Makkal Neethi Maiam in 2018 only continues to be a member of the chorus. Unable to win a single Corporation councillor, let alone MLA seat, Kamal appears to be gravitating towards the Congress inclusive DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance, ostensibly, for a likely MP ticket in 2024.

Kaatchi Pilai editor and political commentator V M Subagunarajan said; "Historically, these actors have only tried to whip up the nationalistic sentiments.

Even in Andhra, which is the only other major state where actors have successfully captured political power, they have only been breakaway factions of national parties like Congress. In Tamil Nadu, only those parties that aligned with the regional aspirations of the people have tasted reasonable success. Though Vijay invokes Periyar, he proposes Kamarajar and Ambedkar, which is an indication of his nationalistic leanings. The provocation for it could have come from the BJP even."

"Also, most of the actor-politicians have only accommodated the disgruntled elements who could not benefit from the political mainstream in the state. The resourceful local businessmen back such actors to taste success. Some endure to sustain their monetary interests. Some of them jump ship and join one of the two Dravidian parties as did a businessman from MNM DMK, " Subagunarajan added.

Writer and political commentator Aazhi Senthilnathan says; The state always had 10 to 15% anti-Dravidian votes. Most of these actor-politicians have only shared the vote bank. The core vote bank of the Dravidian parties has remained intact for over half a century. Be it Vijayakanth, Seeman, Kamal Haasan, they have only shared the 15% votes over a few elections before eventually fading out. All these actors only converted their fan clubs into political outfits without creating a strong ideologically grounding and connecting with the people.

Other than waxing eloquent about eliminating corruption, they do not say much to connect with the people. Hence, they did not succeed beyond a point. Vijay would also be targeting the same vote bank. MGR was the lone exception because he cemented himself in the DMK for over a decade even during his active movie career before carving out a portion of the party and amalgamating his already politicized fan clubs with it while forming the AIADMK in 1972. That made the difference for MGR.

They too ran political parties

  • Sivaji Ganesan founded Tamizhaga Munnetra Munnani after quitting Congress. He merged with Janata Dal in 1989 after the election debacle in 1989.
  • SS Rajendran floated the MGR-SSR Latchiya DMK after MGR's demise in 1984.
  • K Bhagyaraj, an MGR protégé, launched MGR Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam and briefly ran the party.
  • T Rajendar, who was a DMK MLA from Park Town constituency, launched his own Agila India Latchiya DMK before retiring from political business.
  • Actor Karthik launched Agila India Naadalum Makkal Katchi after quitting Forward Bloc. He had to be content with contesting a couple of elections.
  • Actor Sarathkumar floated All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi in 2007 after quitting AIADMK and DMK. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the DMK in 2001.
  • Actor Karunaas launched Mukkulathor Pulipadai in 2016. He completed a term as a MLA elected from Tiruvadanai constituency.
K Karthikeyan
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