Prashant Kishor, the political strategist and JD(U) vice-president, will be helping Kamal Haasan in the upcoming Tamil Nadu Assembly elections in 2021. As of now, Kishor is looking after image makeover of incumbent West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who faced a setback in 2019 general elections.
Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam’s (MNM) was founded in early 2018 to take on the two existing Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu and a resurgent BJP. However, the electoral performance of the party in the 2019 general elections was disastrous despite all media hype. The party candidates lost deposits on all 36 seats contested. The percentage of votes bagged by the party was below 1 percent in many constituencies with an average percentage on contested seats being 3.72 percent.
It is important to note that Haasan’s party contested the elections on highly divisive agenda and senior party leaders including Kamal Haasan made anti-Hindu statements. The party flag itself is symbolized by six interlocked hands which represent 5 Southern states and 1 union territory. Haasan played North Vs South card and Hindi Vs Tamil card to win the elections but both planks failed to win a sizable number of votes for him. The politics of ‘exclusion’ by Haasan is in sharp contrast with another Tamil superstar Rajnikanth whose politics is very ‘inclusive’. Rajnikanth had announced his political debut around the same time that of Haasan and plans to contest all seats in 2021 general election.
Prashant Kishor has so far had one big win in Assembly polls – 2015 Bihar Assembly election and one big loss- 2017 UP Assembly election in his bag. It will be interesting to see how the 2021 Assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu unfolds for him.
As per a report by NDTV, Kishor has advised Mamata Banerjee to ‘stop talking about communal divides’ and ‘stop fighting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’ to succeed in upcoming elections. Since the 2014 general elections when BJP came to power, the politics of Mamata has been dependent on these two pillars. It will be interesting to see whether Kishor advices Haasan the same.
The politics of Kamal Haasan has also been dependent on the two pillars of anti-Hindu and anti-BJP which helped him to bag maximum media attention but did not garner votes for the party. Now, Haasan has approached Prashant Kishor to make a realistic attempt in 2021 election.
As per a senior MNM leader, the “official announcement” would take place very soon. This will be Kishor’s first foray in Southern Indian whose politics is drastically different from that of North India.
In the 2019 general election, the party performed a little better in urban pockets but votes won in rural areas were abysmal. The votes garnered by the party from female voters were also abysmally low, despite the mass popularity of Haasan among women.
The experts doubt that Kamal Haasan would be able to make any difference as he does not have appeal among poor voters and rural constituencies. “Well, he has the film charisma and has traction among the middle classes. But, translating it into votes, considering the stranglehold of the Dravidian majors, is a huge task,” said C Lakshmanan, who is an Associate Professor with Madras Institute of Development Studies.
Prashant Kishor has so far campaigned only for established parties and has no experience with newly launched parties MNM. It will be very tough to establish one MNM which has no standing in rural constituencies and lack mass support.