Rajini Returns

On January 14, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth targeted the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), the springboard that launched both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) by criticising party ideologue, the revered late Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy. Rajini’s focus was on Periyar’s distaste for Hindu deities and forms of worship. Expectedly, the Dravidian parties took umbrage, but the superstar refused to back down.

On February 5, the actor and wannabe politician called the media to declare that certain political parties were instigating protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA for political gains and that the National Population Register (NPR) was very essential. Just so happens that the release of a new Rajini-starrer Thalaivar 168 is round the corner, and a cursory look at the script of the past couple of years indicates that Rajini’s interest in politics perks up every time a new film is due out.

But now there’s the added impetus of the launch of his political party which, sources say, will happen after the puthaandu (Tamil New Year Day on April 14). This is where the anti-Periyar comments, made at the golden jubilee celebrations function for Thuglak magazine (now run by RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy) and his pro-CAA comments have led some to ask whether an arrangement with the BJP is on the cards. Rajini himself has pooh-poohed the idea, and says he will rally those political forces inimical to the DMK or AIADMK to form a third alternative. Analysts say he is aiming to fill the vacuum left by the passing of top leaders in the two big Dravidian parties. While the DMK, led by the late Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Stalin is still a formidable cadre-based party, the AIADMK, now steered by the duo of chief minister E.K. Palaniswami and his deputy O. Panneerselvam, could find it difficult to hold on to its rank and file as elections near.

Rajini has been talking about joining politics and floating a party for over two years now. He has promised aanmiga arasiyal (truthful politics) without elaborating on how he will pursue such a goal. Local committees have also been set up at all levels through his fan clubs, under the aegis of the Rajini Makkal Mandram. For many years now, the actor had also reportedly been in regular touch with Cho Ramaswamy (the late Thuglak editor) and his successor Gurumurthy.

G. Palanithurai, former head of political science and development administration at Gandhigram Rural Institute in Dindigul, feels the time is ripe for a change. The people are disillusioned with the corruption in the two big Dravidian parties. The BJP will back him. Smaller parties will also join Rajini, as they did with the People’s Welfare Front steered by DMDK’s Vijayakanth in 2016. The Dravidian ethos has faded, this will help Rajini against his critics, he says.

Meanwhile, on the acting front, Rajini’s films have not exactly been raking it in the way they did in the past. Indeed, his latest release, Darbar, which came out on January 9, did so poorly that the film’s distributors protested outside his house demanding compensation.

Rajini’s critics say his always imminent shift to politics is just a lot of hype. He projects himself as a natural alternative to the bad Dravidian model of governance’, but he has not backed it with anything concrete. As of now, he has nothing new to offer, says political analyst N. Sathiya Moorthy. Also, his rivals will surely go on the offensive over his recent income tax case. It can seriously dent his Mr Clean image.

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