Rajinikanth takes the political plunge in Tamil Nadu, only to play spoilsport?

By announcing the launch of his political party on Thursday, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth hopes to tap into the anti-incumbency votes in the ensuing Tamil Nadu Assembly elections and also cash in on the vacuum left by the Dravidian leaders M Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa.

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth alias Shivaji Rao Gaekwad has finally shrugged off his Hamletian procrastination with the announcement of his much-awaited decision to take a real plunge into Tamil Nadu politics in January 2021.

Like the protagonist in his flashy movies, he swiftly came out of his house at the posh Poes Garden residence in Chennai on Thursday to announce, what his fans called a “historic decision”, to the waiting media. He said he would launch his party officially in coming January and claimed that he was here mainly to “promote spiritual politics to change the corrupt system corroding the vitals of Tamil Nadu politics.” For the actor, who is in his early 70s, “it is now or never.” He declared he was ready to die for the Tamil people.

What has finally given him the courage to put an end to the proverbial dilemma of ‘to be or not to be’, after having toyed with the idea of entering politics for long, is his think tank’s calculation to tap into the anti-incumbency votes in the ensuing Assembly elections and also cash in on the vacuum left by the Dravidian leaders M Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa.

THE POLITICAL JOURNEY

To dig into his political past, Rajinikanth had in 1996 offered his ‘voice support’, after holding discussions with the functionaries of his fan clubs, to the DMK-TMC alliance that swept the polls and voted out the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK government. “If the (Jayalalithaa’s) regime continued, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu,” he said then.

Since then, his political entry has remained a talk of the town though he would create a controversy whenever the state went to polls. He issued an open statement to the people of Tamil Nadu in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections to vote against the AIADMK alliance, which, however, won it handsomely. On another occasion, he openly said he voted for the BJP but asked his fans to vote for the party of their choice. In yet another election, he asked his fans to vote for the PMK, a regional party with considerable vote share among the most backward Vanniyar caste.

These statements sent confused signals to his fans and well-wishers who doubted if he would make it. Besides, his ill-health and prior commitments to movies had also played a deterrent role in keeping him away from active politics. With the demise of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, his political ambition received a fillip.

Failing repeatedly to gain a foothold in the Dravidian heartland, the BJP had been trying to goad him to enter the murky waters of TN politics and pitch him against the Dravidian majors, but he has only resisted the attempts so far. But his frequent postponement decisions had only pushed his fans and well-wishers to the fringe of frustration. But his real-time political foray into the state’s caste-driven Dravidian politics at an advanced age of 70 with not a robust health has only put him in an unenvious position.

SPOILER FOR DRAVIDIAN PARTIES?

Besides, floating a new party just six months prior to the crucial Assembly polls and announcing that it would contest all the 234 constituencies is considered as something preposterous by political analysts. “The field here is not empty. It already has two organisationally-strong Dravidian parties the DMK and the AIADMK, who share a combined vote bank of 50 per cent, and other smaller but significant regional players such as the PMK and actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK in the line-up. His role in this scenario, however, could be that of a spoiler to either of the two Dravidian parties,” an analyst said.

Rajini’s well-wishers could not resist comparing him with MG Ramachandran, the matinee idol of yesteryears and the founder leader of the AIADMK. But both are distinctly different though Rajini like MGR has been enjoying a good fan following. MGR was groomed in the school of Dravidian movement, while Rajini’s politics of spirituality is akin to BJP’s which is yet to be endorsed by the people of Tamil Nadu.

SPOILER FOR DRAVIDIAN PARTIES?

Besides, floating a new party just six months prior to the crucial Assembly polls and announcing that it would contest all the 234 constituencies is considered as something preposterous by political analysts. “The field here is not empty. It already has two organisationally-strong Dravidian parties the DMK and the AIADMK, who share a combined vote bank of 50 per cent, and other smaller but significant regional players such as the PMK and actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK in the line-up. His role in this scenario, however, could be that of a spoiler to either of the two Dravidian parties,” an analyst said.

Rajini’s well-wishers could not resist comparing him with MG Ramachandran, the matinee idol of yesteryears and the founder leader of the AIADMK. But both are distinctly different though Rajini like MGR has been enjoying a good fan following. MGR was groomed in the school of Dravidian movement, while Rajini’s politics of spirituality is akin to BJP’s which is yet to be endorsed by the people of Tamil Nadu.

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