‘Va Thalaiva’: How a large protest was organised to ask Rajini to join politics

Rajinikanth’s supporters began converging at the spot as early as 7 am, despite Rajini Makkal Mandram warning them against holding a demonstration.

Sunday morning saw Chennai’s Valluvar Kottam thronged by thousands of men and women as loud music serenading actor Rajinikanth filled the air. The event, a rally to convince the actor to join electoral politics, was meant to begin at 10 am but by 7 am in the morning bus-loads of supporters had arrived from across the state. And as the crowds grew, so did the force behind their slogan – ‘Va Thalaiva Va’ (Come leader come).

This was unlike any other political rally the state had seen before. The gathering itself was an act of defiance against the Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM) which had prohibited any demonstration. It was also a clear sign of non-acceptance of the decision announced by the actor, who had stated through a three page statement on December 29 that he will stay away from politics for health reasons. Infact, all district secretaries were told by top RMM leaders to prevent rallies from taking place and were warned that they would be stripped of their position if they took part in any demonstration. Participants at the rally tell TNM that his warning was conveyed to members across Tamil Nadu through social media groups. So then, who organised this large protest and how did thousands manage to assemble in support of a leader who has refused to enter the political ring?

“The decision to hold this rally was born soon after Thalaivar’s announcement was made on December 29. We just couldn’t sleep after he announced he won’t enter politics,” says K Venkatesh, an RMM associate secretary from Madhavaram in North Chennai. “On December 31, a group of us from Chennai and Thiruvallur district began protesting outside his residence at Poes Garden, demanding that he join electoral politics. We were stopped and then detained by the police. While we were being held, the cops we met told us that if we had taken permission and had an organised protest rally, there would have been no problem,” he adds.

Following this, the Chennai chapter of RMM according to Venkatesh, consulted other members and began contacting their counterparts from various districts. Most of the effort, including getting permission from the city police was carried out by Ramdass, a joint secretary of RMM from Chennai (South) and a member of RMM’s disciplinary committee. Other leaders from Cheanni and surrounding districts who spearheaded the rally included amongst several others – North Chennai office bearer AM Raja from Madhavaram, Poonganagar’s district vice secretary Ezhil, Chetpet office bearer Ravi. Soon after, calls and feelers were sent out to get a sense of the support they could expect. Zone and ward level leaders began sending out messages on Whatsapp and Facebook groups informing members of the rally to be held in Chennai. These are some of the posters that were shared on social media from January 4:

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