Updated: May 11, 2021 7:09:16 pm
Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), a party that was founded by actor Kamal Haasan in 2018, is now facing revolt. After an underwhelming performance in the just concluded Tamil Nadu assembly election, the party’s key functionaries resigned but now it’s time to introspect.
In the polls, MNM failed to win a single seat and garnered 2.5 per cent share of votes, lower than their performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls where they got 3.7 per cent. Moreover, MNM finished behind other parties like Naam Tamizhar and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam. Party leader Kamal Haasan himself lost in the Coimbatore (South) constituency to BJP Mahila Morcha President Vanathi Srinivasan by a slender margin of 1,728 votes.
MNM vice-president R Mahendran resigned from his post and quit the party blaming a few advisors at the top over the running of the party. In a letter addressed to Kamal Haasan, Mahendran claimed there is no democracy in the party. He said the party was being converted into a fan club by Sankhya Solutions, the poll management company for MNM.
“Many worked hard with the hope that this will change after polls. So I stayed with him (Haasan) but felt that in the last month or so there was no change in his approach,” Mahendran said.
In reply, Haasan slammed Mahendran calling him a betrayer. Haasan said they faced not just opponents but also betrayers. “Remove the betrayers was the unanimous voice of the party. Mahendran was on top of the list,” Haasan said.
He added that Mahendran’s only achievement was ensuring that those who had true intentions of working for the party got nowhere in the party structure. “The exit door of Makkal Needhi Maiam is open for those who are dishonest and untalented. He (Mahendran) tries to cover up for his dishonesty, acumen and his failure by blaming others and tries to earn sympathy. I am happy that a weed removed itself,” Haasan added.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, late president APJ Abdul Kalam’s scientific advisor V Ponraj who was appointed as the vice-president of MNM, explained what happened behind the doors of the MNM governing body meeting.
“We had a meeting post the election results and all the senior functionaries participated in it. Our leader wanted to completely revamp the party so he conducted a one-on-one session with each of us and asked us to provide our resignation. He spoke with other candidates as well through zoom meetings. He felt certain people who were given responsibilities didn’t do their job,” he said.
When asked about Mahendran’s accusations against the party and its leader, Ponraj said it is common for people to take credit when there is a victory and involve in the blame game after facing a defeat.
“We came to know about Mahendran’s decision to quit the party a bit later because he handed over a sealed cover to the leader. Also, Mahendran was not the only one who raised the issues in the party, everyone of us told the party high command about the issues that are happening inside and outside the party and our leader was patient enough to listen to all. All of us joined the party for Kamal Haasan, we all like him and we had a passion for politics and we want to bring a change. He told us what mistakes we made and said he owned up the complete responsibility for the party’s performance,” he said.
Ponraj further said any idea in India will take seven years to materialize and MNM is a party that is just three years old. “Haasan doesn’t want a leader-centric party, he wants an Ideology-centric party driven by a leader. We are with him and we hope he will address the issues and take corrective actions wherever it is needed. He wants the party to build in a long-term perspective,” Ponraj added.
Poll management firm blamed for poor show
A couple of senior members blamed Sankhya Solutions for interfering in day to day affairs of the party apart from providing election strategies. They claimed some of the decisions were taken by Haasan on their suggestion without consulting any of the senior members of the party.
M Tholkaapiyan, MNM’s district deputy secretary for media in a letter addressed to Suresh Iyer, the director of Sankhya Solutions, said the election management company crossed their line and interfered in party affairs. He claimed Sankhya Solutions which had no connection with the party whatsoever instructed the members what to do and what not to do. He added that he witnessed the decline of the party’s growth after the election management company’s interference but kept to himself due to the respect he had for their leader Haasan.
Actor and lyricist Snehan, who had been with the party since its inception and had contested in both Lok Sabha and assembly polls, felt that they would have performed better if they had contested alone.
“People believed that whatever he (Mahendran) did was for the welfare of the party but later only we realised that he was actually working against the party. Even in my case, when I and others wanted me to contest from Tiruppur, I was forced to contest from an unfamiliar constituency like Sivaganga. I didn’t make an issue out of it then as I thought it was of no use. Given the responsibility, Mahendran should have been the person responsible for the loss, introspect where we went wrong, and initiate necessary plans but he was the first person to jump the ship. He blamed the party and shamed a person who has a clean image for over 50 years and has sacrificed his film career to come to politics for people’s welfare,” he said.
Induct Narpani Mandram members to party: Snehan
When asked about what type of changes MNM leader Haasan is likely to make in the party, Snehan said it is time to introspect and induct some of the old Narpani Mandram members who worked hard for the party. “All the activities happening in the zone/district levels will now be under the direct supervision of the leader. There will be changes of office-bearers district/zonal level too. This is done to strengthen the party and I appreciate it wholeheartedly,” he said.
When parties like AIADMK, DMK were involved in convincing their allies to settle for fewer seats as they wanted to contest in more constituencies, Makkal Needhi Maiam had a different strategy which backfired. They contested in 142 constituencies and gave away 40 seats to parties like Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi, 33 to All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi which never performed well in the past elections.
Snehan said the decision to ally with other parties was mainly due to financial pressure. “If we had contested alone we would have performed better. I personally feel that allying with such parties was a big mistake. The party high command took that decision because they don’t want to put financial pressure on local district/zonal functionaries. Our decision was wrong but I can assure you that our vote share hasn’t decreased and people will get to know us with our performances in the future polls,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.