Rajini to plunge into politics
by B R Haran on 26 Jun 2017 4 Comments
Rajini has come a long way from being an ordinary bus conductor to a celebrated super star. He reached the pinnacles of glory by sheer hard work, commitment, perseverance and absolute faith in God. Recently, after a long hiatus, he met his fans in person continuously for five days in the month of May. He made kind inquiries and patiently took photographs with them. When he addressed his fans, he subtly indicated that he might plunge into politics in the near future, if not immediately.


He said, “My being a successful actor is God’s blessings. Tomorrow if I enter the political arena, God willing, I will not take with me any one who is coming to me with an intention of making money. Such people can move out right away. I will follow only the path of truth and justice”.   


The speech created a storm in the state inducing everyone, from the common man to media man to politician to intellectual, to make note of, analyse, respond with statements and write reports and columns. Mainstream media as well as social media are still abuzz with many speculations and stories. Almost all political parties reacted immediately. Some leaders criticised his Kannada origins. Rajinikanth responded in his own style.


“I am 67 now. I have been in Tamil Nadu for the last 44 years. I have attained this stage in my life only because of the people of Tamil Nadu. People of Tamil Nadu have given me name, fame and money, and also made me a true Tamilian. So, what is wrong if I aspire for the welfare of the very same people, who have given me everything?” he asserted.


Finally, he said, “The system is spoilt. Democracy has been spoilt. People are not happy about the present political scenario. They want a change. All must work together to bring that change.” The fans went ecstatic and started putting up banners and posters across the state welcoming him into politics and addressing him as “Tomorrow’s CM”.


Until he made the movie Baasha, Rajini had never opened his mouth about politics. Made in 1995, it was a huge hit. Between 1991 and 1996, Tamil Nadu had witnessed the worst form of governance under Jayalalithaa; Sasikala and family were running berserk then. So, at the function to mark the successful run of Baasha, Rajini opened up and talked politics. Then he made the most famous statement that, “Even God cannot save Tamil Nadu, if Jayalalithaa is voted back to power”. That single statement caused the defeat of AIADMK in the electoral hustings in 1996.


Even now, many political analysts, including this writer, believe that Rajini had missed the bus in 1996. Had he started a party and taken the plunge then, he might be sitting as a Chief Minister by now. However, since then, Rajini’s “voice” has become a phenomenon in the state’s political scenario. After Baasha came a series of successful films such as Muthu, Arunachalam, Padaiyappa, et al.


Much before Baasha, he had given some wonderful hits such as Annamalai, Yejaman and Veera. In the 1990s, he was the darling of the masses. From tiny tots to great grandparents, Rajini was loved by one and all. According to sources close to him, even after the release of Padayappa in 1999, he was contemplating of entering politics. 


It must be mentioned that in the 1990s, Rajini’s fan base grew by leaps and bounds and millions of youth registered themselves in the “Rajinikanth Fans Welfare Association”. He used to push them into taking up social causes and work for the society. This writer had personally witnessed Rajini helping the marriage of twenty poor fans every year in his Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam, taking care of the entire expenses, including a full set of household articles needed for a newlywed couple.


He also helped with the education of the children of his fans. Even now, he reportedly does charity works without advertisement. His absolute faith in God induced his fans also to flaunt their faith in public. This made an everlasting mark on the psyche of people of Tamil Nadu, who have otherwise been seeing Dravidian racists, rationalists and communists as political leaders.


However, he postponed his entry into politics, probably waiting for the appropriate time and also due to the advice of close acquaintances. When Vijayakanth took the decision in 2005, many fans of Rajinikanth, who had ambitions of a political career, joined the DMDK, which captured 8 to 10% vote share in the very first hustings in 2006. But, for obvious reasons, Vijayakanth could not grow further and now his party has been reduced to an also ran.


Rajini continued his successful run in the tinsel world. His charisma and mass appeal was again in display when his health failed and he had to be air dashed to Singapore for treatment. Millions of fans prayed for his quick recovery in all major temples across the state. He recovered and continued acting. Recent successes like Yandhiran and Kabali highlight the fact that his fan base is intact and people of all ages love him.


He patched up with Jayalalithaa during her second term, probably due to the advice of his political mentor, Cho Ramaswamy. He was full of appreciation for her for finishing the forest brigand and sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. Then he maintained equidistance from both Dravidian parties, neither supporting them nor positioning against them. While there were ripples of his entering politics in the media and political circles every now and then, he was very clear in his mind that he could not do much as long as both Jaya and Karuna were active.   


Now, Rajini has clearly realized the vacuum created by Jaya’s death and Karuna’s exit from active politics. He rightly sees this as a great opportunity. As he is very much aware that he had missed the political bus in the 1990s, a fact which has been pricking his mind since then, he would certainly go all out now to shift from cinema to politics. He has seen how MGR shifted from films to politics and how he utilised his mass appeal to have a successful political career. He has seen how Jayalalithaa used her film-fame and built upon MGR’s basement and ultimately removed him from the scene altogether, branding and establishing herself as the benevolent and blessing “Mother” (Amma) of all.


He has seen the timely entry of NTR in Andhra, using his charisma and mass appeal to have a successful political career. Notwithstanding such successful careers of actors turned politicians, he has also witnessed the failures of other actors turned politicians, such as Vijayakanth and Chiranjeevi.  


Rajini is very clear in his mind. He has chosen the right time to test the waters. His speech during the first round of his meeting with his fans has given the expected results. He must be happy now. He has been seeing the governance of the BJP led NDA government at Delhi and the transformation happening in the last three years, and is closely watching the developments in AIADMK and DMK. Although he has good relations with BJP leaders, he has not openly committed to them. Even during the run up to the parliament elections in 2014 and the assembly elections in 2016, he did not openly support BJP, despite Narendra Modi’s personal visit to his house.


Rajini is very conscious of his secular image. He knows his huge fan base comprises of youth from all communities and that people from all religions love him. So, he will not sacrifice his secular image and individual authority by joining BJP, which has very little presence in the state. More than everything, he must be very sure of the exodus of second rung leaders, functionaries and cadres from other parties to his own, once he launches it.


A huge advantage for him is the unsolicited support from the “secular” mainstream media, which is bent upon stopping BJP making inroads into Tamil Nadu. The media is aware of the impending end of Dravidian parties in the political arena and dearth of political leaders with mass appeal. They will surely rally behind Rajini. Yet another advantage is his contacts with some of the best minds and intellectuals across the spectrum, who would gladly support him with ideas and suggestions.


Rajini knows the people of Tamil Nadu are aspiring for a change and are looking for a fresh charismatic leader; is aware of Tamil Nadu’s affinity for film personalities; and is also aware of his strong fan base. He has sensed the opportunity now; he has clearly understood the limitations of all the TN political parties; and is confident of filling the vacuum.


Why would he hesitate? He would only grab this second and last opportunity! 

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