Rajinikanth Gambling With His Brand for a Political Blockbuster. But It May Not be a Wise Wager to Place

Superstar Rajnikanth will on December 31 announce the date for the launch of his much-awaited political party. Irrespective of how many times he has announced and disappointed in the past, the declaration makes headlines the moment it is made. It is speculated that this time it is for real.

And he has threatened to alter the Dravidian political field with his “spiritual politics”. Can he, and will he? If he does not take the jump after this, he may never be taken seriously. But this is not a movie script where a statement can set the box office ablaze and Rajini is fully aware of that. Stars have been successful in Dravidian politics only when they had the right script.

To recap briefly, the late MG Ramachandran, founder of the AIADMK, had betrayal by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam under M Karunanidhi as the story line in the 1970s. J Jayalalithaa had ‘victimization by the DMK’ narrative in 1991.

Stars like the legendary Sivaji Ganesan to Kamal Hassan, who did not get their script right, failed.

It is true that there is a definite third alternative vote base in the state. When a much lesser star Vijayakanth launched his politics in 2006, he instantly got 8 percent votes, and Rajini will get more. But Vijayakanth won just one out of the 234 assembly seats with that vote share.

There is disenchantment within the AIADMK and DMK, and the absence of a tall personality adds to Rajini power. Even if all this takes him to a 20 percent vote share, it is not enough to be a decisive seat-winner.

In 2019, the DMK and its allies polled a 33 percent vote share to sweep the Lok Sabha polls, and in 2016 the AIADMK, under Jayalalithaa, polled 40 percent vote share to get 135 assembly seats. The DMK alliance with 39.85 percent vote share managed only 96 seats.

Till Rajni can cross that kind of vote share threshold, he will only be a spoiler and not decisive winner. Given his star power, anything short of a clear victory and numbers to decide the next Chief Minister would be a failure.

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