Kamal Haasan launches party

Madurai, Feb 21 (IANS) Actor Kamal Haasan on Wednesday launched his political party "Makkal Needhi Maiam" (People Justice Centre), which will seek to provide corruptionless governance, stop playing games on the basis of religion and castes and adopt a centrist approach without swaying left or right too much.

He also declared that he will not indulge in the politics of "freebies", a practice the Dravidian parties have made famous in Tamil Nadu.

The 63-year-old actor took the political plunge with a visit to the residence of late former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in Rameswaram on a hectic day passing by his school and his village in Ramanathapuram before winding up the day with a public meeting here unveiling the party flag and the name.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who addressed the public meeting where the party was launched, hailed Kamal as the new alternative to Tamil Nadu to rout the "corrupt" AIADMK and DMK -- a point the actor acknowledged in his speech.

In a video message, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan extended his greetings to Kamal, hoping that his entry into politics will enrich the political life of Tamil Nadu and that he will uphold the ideals of secularism, democracy and pluralism.

In a 45-minute speech, Kamal said his party will be the army for Tamilians' war for justice. "Kejriwal has started my campaign today itself. As a courtesy I wanted to avoid saying certain things but Kejriwal has launched my political campaign because he knows time is short for me."

Replying to questions from his fans, Kamal said he will serve the people of Tamil Nadu till his last and would like to leave a party for the next three or four generations. "There will be no permanent Chief Ministers if my party is voted to power," he said.

"Quality education, elimination of corruption, supply of regular electricity and removal of unemployment will be among the priorities. If you eliminate corruption all this can be done."

He refused to answer queries about criticism by DMK leader M.K. Stalin that paper flowers do not have any fragrance or BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan's description of him as a bonsai tree and AIADMK minister D. Jayakumar calling him a genetically modified seed that will not grow.

"Should I answer these critics or look at what we have to do," he said, adding angrily that this sort of remarks against him only shows how the opponents are angry about his entry.

The actor took a dig at the Tamil Nadu government, saying his government would not give "quarter" (liquor) to men and scooter to women.

In Tamil Nadu, the liquor sale is done by the state government. The government would launch its subsidised scooter scheme on Saturday.

"We have to think where we are going. We have facilitated school children to have access to liquor by opening liquor shops everywhere," he said.

Kamal also said the focus will be on putting a stop to the games played by political parties on the basis of caste and religion.

Referring to cash-for-vote that is prevalent in the state, he said he would not do this.

"You have undersold your vote. If you had voted for a good party you would have got Rs 600,000 per year as income and not just Rs 6,000 per vote," Kamal said.

On the Cauvery river water dispute with Karnataka, the new political leader said if proper dialogue is held, then Tamil Nadu could get the water it needs.

According to him, Makkal Neethi Maiam is not leaning towards left or right but has people at its centre of focus.

"The six hands - each holding the other at the wrist - in the party flag. It reflects the six southern states/union territory and the six pointed star at the centre reflects people," Kamal said.

According to him, he decided to foray into politics to do something in return to the people for the love and affection they had showered on him as an actor.

Earlier on his arrival at the venue, Kamal unfurled his party's flag. He also announced the party's name.

With this, Kamal becomes one more actor from Tamil movie world to float a political party.

Interestingly, Kamal who got introduced to the public in Tamil movie "Kalathur Kannamma" as a three-year-old-boy named Selvam has now got a new honorofix as "Nammavar" or our man.

"Like the lamp in your homes you should protect me. Earlier I was in your hearts and now I will be in your homes," Kamal told the gathering.

In his message, Vijayan said: "He (Kamal) is dear to me and also to the people of Kerala."

Vijayan said Tamil Nadu is famous for reformist movement and this has telling influence on Kerala.

Kejriwal said Kamal is a real life hero who voiced his views against communal forces and Tamil Nadu was stuck between two corrupt political parties and Kamal's party is honest and people can vote for him.

Kamal formally began his political journey from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's residence at Rameswaram, where he met the former President's elder brother and other family members.

"Greatness can come from simple beginnings," he said.

"Actually, it will come only from simplicity. Glad to start my journey from a great man's simple abode," the actor added in a tweet.

However, his second halt at the government school in Mandapam where Kalam studied got cancelled as the district administration did not give permission.

A leader of a Hindu outfit said they had opposed Kamal's visit to the school as he was trying to gain political mileage and nothing more.

Later addressing the fishing community in Rameswaram, Kamal said that it is one of the most important industries in Tamil Nadu. He would be back to listen to the suggestions made by the fisherfolk.



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