Rajnikanth, on the edge of politics for over two decades

Rajinikanth does not have it easy. He is a poor communicator offscreen, speaks in a rushed manner and is often struggling for words, particularly in Tamil, in a state where public speaking and oratory is considered a fine art in itself.

Is there a political vacuum in Tamil Nadu? Well, ‘political vacuum’ is a codeword for Rajinikanth and his entry into politics. Tamil Nadu is now almost divided into two camps. If you agree that there is a political vacuum, it means that you are looking for Rajinikanth’s entry into politics, and if you say NO, it means you don’t care much.

Stalin and Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami are together on one issue; that there is no political vacuum and they have made it clear on every occasion. They hope to discourage Rajinikanth as they do not want an unpredictable variable in the game of Tamil Nadu politics.

Rajinikanth has been playing this cat and mouse game of political entry for long. It all started in 1996 assembly polls, when political parties made a beeline to him to get him to endorse an anti-Jayalalitha stand. Finally, he said something to this effect: “If Jayalalitha comes to power again, even God cannot save you”. That was enough for his fans and followers. He was at the height of his popularity then and some still feel that he missed the bus then.

Jayalalitha faced the most humiliating defeat in her career, when she lost as an MLA and most of her partymen lost the elections. However, the credit for the defeat may not lie with Rajinikanth alone as a massive anti-incumbency wave was afoot even before the polls were announced. Rajini was just on the right side of history.

He Has been caught on the wrong side too. His brand of endorsement of political parties came to a naught, when during the 1998 parliament elections he openly supported the DMK – Tamil Maanila Congress alliance (Moopanar’s party) which went on to lose the polls. The elections were held in the backdrop of a growing disenchantment with the DMK and the Coimbatore bomb blasts.

In the 2004 parliament elections too, Rajinikanth supported the BJP-AIADMK alliance which flopped miserably. However, his political brand endorsements are restricted to either interviews or a formal announcement of support. He has never campaigned for anyone or hit the streets in support of any political party. At times, his endorsements looked laboured, as an afterthought or simply that he was under pressure to do so.

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