All through the last week, meme-makers in Tamil Nadu — who, it should be said, are among the sharpest and funniest in the country — had a whale of a time, and their target was actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan.

Kamal's feckless performance in a debate with Union minister Smriti Irani on Republic TV lent itself to a lot of lampooning. The meme-makers were unsparing and merciless as they shred him to pieces over his unprepared appearance at the debate.

As it happens, the Makkal Needhi Maiyam (MNM) chief looks unprepared on the political front, too, even though the party has announced last week that it will contest the general elections of 2019. The party's executive and general council met last week, and at the end of it all, Haasan said that his party would join hands with parties of similar ideologies.

The hitch, however, is:

  1. MNM's ideology itself is far from clear
  2. Whatever little that is clear has no similarity with any of the parties in the fray

"For a party leader who has arrived on the scene with the grand promise of providing a difference, to talk of alliance with existing players seems counter-intuitive," says M Subramanian, a political reporter with long standing. "It makes all his claims so far sound ridiculously hollow," he adds.

Kamal has dropped enough hints that he would not be averse to joining hands with the Congress. But his rider to it is, the Congress should snap its links with the DMK. His expectation is at best a joke. At worst, a sick joke. For, the Congress in Tamil Nadu is not a force at all. And what little it can win in terms of the vote will be only because of its alliance with the DMK.

"Kamal's plot will not work even in films," points out Julie Jabaraj, who teaches political science in a college in Tirunelveli. "The Congress needs the DMK to be a political force here in Tamil Nadu. Kamal is being naïve."

Haasan met Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi a few months ago. Though the meeting did not throw up anything interesting, sources say that the indications that Haasan got from the Congress top-brass was positive. "That is because the Congress in Delhi is desperate for alliances. And it is also clueless of what its own party people are thinking at the State level," says J Vijayalakshmi, a political analyst based out of Madurai. "Tamil Nadu Congress is lukewarm to the overtures from Kamal. But Rahul has not picked the signals from his State unit."

Whatever the Congress may feel about Haasan, the bigger stumbling block for MNM chief is Congress's ally, the DMK, which is less than favourably inclined towards him. "The DMK wants to have nothing with Kamal Haasan, and even the latter, to be fair, is not so enamoured with MK Stalin and his approach," says a Congress worker in Chennai.

When Karunanidhi's statue was unveiled a week ago in Chennai, Haasan chose to give the event a miss (by conveniently being away in Madurai.) "Kamal's discomfort with both the main Dravidian parties is well-known. He has not made a secret of his opinions that the two parties are responsible for the rot in the state. So, to go with them politically will not work for him," says Subramanian.

Haasan does not want to ally with the BJP either, which, in any case, is not much of a force in Tamil Nadu. Haasan's party MNM has also not got the traction to think of going alone all by itself. "Essentially, he finds himself in a corner with very little space for manoeuvrability," says Vijayalakshmi. "Probably he understands his unenviable predicament more than anybody else. So, he is focusing less on politics, but more on welfare activities. He and his team have done some really good work in areas that were ravaged by Cyclone Gaja," says Julie. Those efforts are welcome and laudable. But the political arena is a different beast altogether.

At some point, Haasan has to grapple with realities and take some hard decisions. Kamal is right now in Singapore on a short break. When he comes back (in January), he must be ready for some strong eventualities. He has his task cut out, says Julie.

Haasan’s followers are waiting anxiously. So, it would seem, are the meme-makers.