Rajini Makkal Mandram anxiously awaits word from its leader

For office-bearers and members of the nearly three-year-old Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM), mooted as a political launchpad for superstar Rajinikanth, this is a period of anxious wait to decide their future role. After meeting RMM functionaries on Monday, Mr. Rajinikanth promised to convey “as early as possible” his decision on whether he would take the much-hyped political plunge.

The decision did not come on Tuesday, as anticipated by his supporters. For them, it has not been an easy journey, considering the wavering signals given by the actor since the last day of 2017. On that day, when Mr. Rajinikanth unambiguously declared that his political entry was a certainty, his fans were ecstatic and swung into action to put in place the skeleton of a political party in the form of the RMM.

Looking back, a senior member of the RMM told The Hindu that when Mr. Rajinikanth, while speaking at a function in 2018, postured that he could revive the ‘MGR rule’, his comments had “hit the spot”. “It resulted in a wave of support when the popularity of the ruling and Opposition Dravidian parties was low,” he said.

But the momentum did not last long. Later that year, when Mr. Rajinikanth angrily remarked that Tamil Nadu will become a ‘grave yard’ if there are protests over every issue and alleged that anti-social elements were involved in the anti-Sterlite protests, it dented his credibility. “He came to be seen as the BJP’s spokesperson, reflecting the Central and State governments’ stance,” the RMM member said.

His decision to prevent his supporters from expressing their political opinion and to sign up for one film after another created doubts among RMM members on whether he was serious about entering politics.

The BJP-AIADMK’s rout in the Parliamentary election, RMM members said, unsettled Mr. Rajinikanth. He, perhaps, realised the complexity of setting up a political party and encountered several practical problems, including corruption, in the process, forcing a rethink.

Earlier this year, soon after he opted out of becoming the Chief Ministerial face of his proposed party and called for a ‘resurgence’ among the people, came the COVID-19 outbreak. “He had always felt that six months would provide enough time to face the election. But COVID-19 played spoilsport. He was making every effort to start the party in October,” claimed a confidante of the actor.

An RMM member insisted that Mr. Rajinikanth had always been clear that he would not enter politics if he did not see a clear path to victory. “He only means it in a positive sense. He is aware that if he is unable to reach out across Tamil Nadu, he will not be able to achieve what he wants. He has health issues, which prevent him from doing that. In that case, he feels it would not be right to drag his fans into this endeavour. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has already decided not to contest [the election],” he said.

An RMM functionary held out hope, with the caveat: “When it comes to Mr. Rajinikanth, you can never predict what he will do.”

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