Although Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) candidates failed to win a single parliamentary seat in the Lok Sabha election 2019, the party managed to secure third place in as many as 13 Lok Sabha constituencies, giving the party’s founder the hope that it can emerge as an alternative to the two major Dravidian parties.

This is the first Lok Sabha election for the year-old party. Kamal Haasan, who was a vocal critic of the ruling AIADMK government ever since the demise of former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha, launched MNM on February 21, 2018 with a promise to fight corruption and develop rural Tamil Nadu. The actor also projected himself as an alternative to the two Dravidian parties.

In its debut Lok Sabha polls, MNM secured third spot in many of the urban and semi-urban constituencies, including Chennai Central, Chennai North and Chennai South where the candidates got more than 10 per cent vote share. The party stood third in industrial belts such as Coimbatore, Sriperumbudur, Thiruvallur and Tiruppur, signifying the support base from the working class and business community. Among the MNM candidates in fray, Coimbatore candidate R Mahendran and South Chennai candidate R Rangarajan polled more than 1 lakh votes each, with a 12 per cent vote share in their constituencies.

“MNM is not a mass cadre-based party yet and I don’t think these votes have gone to Kamal Haasan as an individual but more of a protest votes from people who were fed up with Dravidian parties,” said political analyst Sumanth C Raman. “Kamal Haasan is caught in a difficult situation. In order to win more seats, he has to align with either one of the major players but if he so aligns he will lose his credibility as an alternative,” Raman added.

Besides urban pockets, MNM candidates also secured third place in Tier-2 cities such as Erode, Salem and Madurai besides claiming third spot in rural constituencies such as Nilgiris, Pollachi and Tenkasi.

However, Kamal Haasan’s party was unable to make any inroads in rural areas, where it was pushed to fourth or fifth position inmany constituiences by actor Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK).

“In order to really make a big difference in Tamil Nadu politics, it is not just enough to have a name and vague promises,” said political analyst Badri Seshadri, adding that Kamal Haasan should commit himself more seriously to politics rather than shuffling between politics and entertainment, in order to convince more people to vote for him.