Rajinikanth keeps Tamil Nadu guessing

After decades of indecision whether to jump into politics or not, Rajinikanth has realised that it is ‘now or never’ and feels “political change is necessary”

Rajinikanth keeps Tamil Nadu guessing

Kalyani Shankar/IPA

Tamil Nadu is getting ready to welcome the mega superstar Rajinikanth’s political party. After decades of indecision whether to jump into politics or not, he has realised that it is ‘now or never’ and feels "political change is necessary.

“It is the need of the hour. If it is not done now, it will never be done. For this, I urge people to stand by me. Together we will bring change," the superstar-turned politician tweeted this week. His announcement comes as a relief for fans and his fan club, Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM). The actor will turn 70 on December 12. Interestingly he is entering a new filed when others retire.

‘Thalaiva’, as he is affectionately called by his fans, had first announced his decision of entering politics in December 2017. In March this year, he declared that he did not wish to be the chief minister and would pick someone educated and responsible as the chief ministerial candidate.

Before every Assembly or Lok Sabha election since 1996 there were rumours about the super star’s entry into politics. In 1996 the Congress offered him the chief ministership to counter the AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa. Since then he had kept his options open.

He is eyeing the political space vacated by the two icons- Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi who died in 2016. With the leadership crisis in almost all parties in Tamil Nadu, he thinks he could fill that vacuum.

In Tamil Nadu, some have made it big in politics and films and some others have not succeeded like Shivaji Ganesan who became just a Congress M.P. DMK chief M. Karunanidhi, and AIADMK leaders M.G. Ramachandran, and Jayalalithaa have all had film background. But Vijay Kant who was successful to an extent in launching his MDMK, could not progress much.

Is he going to be on his own or as some people predict, does he have the backing of the BJP? BJP and the AIADMK have welcomed his move. Other smaller parties are not enthusiastic. So far he has not even campaigned for any party at any time and is seen as a political novice.

He is coming at a significant time when the incumbent AIADMK-BJP alliance, DMK-Congress-Left front and fellow actor Kamal Haasan have already sounded the poll bugle. Is it possible for him to join any of this combination as the elections have become a game of arithmetic? Without alliances, no party can win in a splintered polity, which is what Tamil Nadu is today.

He does not have any caste backing or ideological backing. He is yet to declare the ideology of his party though he has just said it is a spiritual party. How will that jell with the already established parties? With elections increasingly becoming caste and religion-centric, it remains to be seen how he fares.

AIADMK, DMK, PMK and MDMK are all Dravidian parties. The BJP is a national party. What is new that Rajini is bringing to the table? Finally, though Rajini might be charismatic and a crowd puller will he be able to translate his popularity into votes?

Politicians quite often gravitate to new parties. Running a party is a costly affair and fighting elections will be even more challenging. Will he be able to find candidates to contest polls? How will he finance them?

Some sources say that BJP is ready to finance him. He had last year, launched his own website & a party logo. In a video message to his fans, the superstar had appealed to them to register to the website and help him develop Tamil Nadu.

The opposition might make use of his Maharashtrian origin. He hails from Maharashtra though he claims that he is a true Tamilian. He can also cite the examples of Jayalalithaa and MGR. MGR was born in Kerala and Jayalalithaa in Karnataka. Further, if Rajini joins hands with the BJP, he will risk losing the support of his huge minority base in the state. Can he take that risk?

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