Rajinikanth's political entry: Can Kollywood’s Thalaivar become Tamil Nadu’s Thalaivar ?

The superstar must clarify his stand in regards to the Bharatiya Janata Party especially in the wake of Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu
Rajinikanth's political entry: Can Kollywood’s Thalaivar become Tamil Nadu’s Thalaivar ?

Finally, superstar Rajinikanth has given a date. This is not for a movie but a date for the announcement of his political outfit. Keeping his fans waiting for three years, after he promised them a political party, the 69-year-old actor has announced that he will reveal the details for his political party on December 31. From being a bus conductor to a superstar and then to a demi-God status in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth has grown exponentially over the decades. However, the question here is whether his star status will help him to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Rajini's first tryst with politics was in 1996. Then Chief Minister Jayalalitha, who was accused in various scams, was seeking re-election. Up against her was the alliance of DMK and TMC (an erstwhile faction of Congress party). Rajinikanth opened up, for the first time, about politics. He appealed to voters of TN with a one-liner: "If this Govt is re-elected, then even God will not be able to save Tamil Nadu." That statement gave DMK-TMC alliance the much-needed ammunition to bring down the AIADMK Govt.

There was wide speculation that Rajini will be entering active politics and will start a new party. He was at the peak of his stardom then. It was a great opportunity to have capitalised on the political scenario of Tamil Nadu. ADMK was at its ebb, and with Jayalalitha facing a jail sentence, Rajini's new party would have filled the vacuum.

However, he decided to stay in a comfort zone where his film career was not affected due to his political leaning. He had friends and business partners across the political spectrum, and his huge fan base had their political affiliation. From asking voters not to vote for ADMK, he toned it down it to "vote as per your conscience" in the next election.

The majority of his fans were happy that their 'Thalaivar' did not take any sides. It would have been very difficult for them to decide between voting for their party or the one Rajini had joined. All was well, barring a few movie dialogues and song lyrics where he expressed his intention to join politics. Those few lines kept his fans excited about his political plunge.

Post-2014, as India's political scenario changed with BJP's tricks, Rajini found it difficult to stay impartial. He started to show his inclination towards Narendra Modi. He never missed an opportunity to laud Modi's decisions, though they were disastrous for the common man. His support for demonetisation raised a few eyebrows. He was seen warming up towards the Sangh Parivar on various occasions. Rajini's political advisory team comprised of Tamiluruvi Maniyan, an ex-Congress leader who constantly voices against Dravidian politics and S Gurumoorthy, editor of political magazine Thuglak and a known RSS sympathiser. Incidentally, Cho Ramaswamy was the editor of Thuglak and Rajini's advisor till the former's demise.

What is evident here is, a reluctant Rajini being forced into politics just to change the upcoming assembly battleground in the state.

No one believes that Rajini or his new political party can create a storm enough to capture power on their own. Rajini's fan outfit Rajini Makkal Mandram, which has a strong base across Tamil Nadu, may be turned into a political outfit with those office bearers occupying key positions. Is that enough for a newly formed political party to capture a state? Not so in today's political situation and climate in Tamil Nadu.

Rajini supporters believe that he can create the magic MGR created in politics. Being a superstar in the Tamil film industry, MGR became the state's CM and remained so until he died. However, the fact that needs to be observed is that before starting his political outfit, MGR was part of DMK for years under the guidance of Annadurai. Only after Anna died did MGR split DMK to start his party. Even Jayalalithaa, the other successful actor-turned-politician, joined ADMK and worked within the party under MGR.

To the people of Tamil Nadu, drowned in Dravidian politics — adding to their 'Tamil' and 'Tamilian' pride — Rajini offers "spiritual politics". How he is going to market it and what he has up his sleeve to offer to the people is yet to be seen. With suspicion of his Sangh connection, it would be important for Rajini to convey through his deeds that he is not moving towards BJP. Otherwise, his fans and supporters would desert him. If Rajini allows BJP to pull strings, his party would be called a vote-cutter party.

We can only guess the compulsions that have forced him to start a political party. However, his true fans wish that he doesn't cut a sorry face later. Let's wait and see how the movie ends.

The opinion piece is written by Lt Cdr. Gokul Chandran (R)

The NationWide