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After months of preparing the ground for his debut in politics, Tamil film icon Kamal Haasan will finally launch his political outfit at a grand public meeting in Madurai on Wednesday (February 21). The thespian will announce the name of his party, its ideology and agenda at the event which will also kick-start his state-wide tour of Tamil Nadu.

It is learnt that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who Haasan had hosted for lunch at his Chennai residence a few months ago, is likely to attend the launch event. The Tamil actor has also invited his “close friend and guide” Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan for the function while there are also rumours of an invitation being extended to Bihar and Bengal chief ministers, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee, respectively though none of these stalwarts have confirmed their participation as yet.

Haasan is expected to visit his hometown Ramanathapuram and also tour the state’s Dindigul and Sivaganga districts after launching his party from Madurai.

Addressing the media at the Chennai airport on Tuesday, Kamal Haasan said, “I’ll take this press meet as a token of welcome. People who are going to join us are comingtomorrow. Political leaders from other parties are also coming to wish me tomorrow, you’ll see them all.”

Over the last several months, the immensely popular Tamil actor has been carefully crafting his political plans, vociferously criticising the state of politics and administration in his home state and hitting out at the incumbent AIADMK-led government of chief minister E Palaniswamy. He has been vocal about redefining Dravidian politics and the need for reaching out to other southern states of the country for building a Dravidian axis that would have more leverage with the Centre in seeking funds and development programs for the region.

While the actor had, earlier this month, asserted that the motive of his political party is to challenge the status quo that has been plaguing Tamil Nadu politics, on Tuesday, he told reporters: “Yes I spoke against the Tamil Nadu govt and I can’t speak anything more here, I’ll speak everything tomorrow at Madurai.”

Earlier in the day, Haasan took to Twitter to announce: “Tomorrow is the beginning of our journey. At 6 pm tomorrow we will load our party flag at a grand public meeting at the Madurai ground. I will explain the name of the new party and the essence of our policy. Welcome to New Age (sic).”

The actor’s entry in Tamil politics is being keenly watched by political observers, especially at a time when the other cine-icon of the state – Rajinikanth– has also triggered speculations over his imminent political debut. It remains to be seen whether the two actors, who collectively have a fan following that is arguably larger than any other Indian film personality, will ultimately join forces to break the existing power arithmetic of Tamil Nadu which has seen its government alternating between the DMK and AIADMK for nearly three decades.

Many political observers have raised doubts on whether the actor will be able to make a mark in Tamil politics or if his debut will end as another case of mere hype.

In October, at a function to inaugurate a memorial dedicated to the late Tamil film icon Sivaji Ganesan, Rajinikanth had cautioned his film colleague over his political plans saying: “to be successful in politics, just name, fame and money are not enough”. Rajini’s advise was backed by the most credible evidence possible in Tamil politics – that of Sivaji Ganesan himself. Despite his massive success in cinema and a fan-following that went beyond Tamil Nadu, Ganesan had failed to become a formidable political force in the state even after being with various political parties – including the Congress, DMK, Janata Party and floating his own outfit, the Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani. “Sivaji (Ganesan) has left a lesson not just in cinema but also in politics. He started his own political party, fought and lost (elections) from his own constituency…” Rajinikanth had said, taking a not-so-veiled dig at Haasan’s grand ambition of providing a viable political alternative to the people of his state.

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