Millennium Post

Rajinikanth's dilemma

As the political scene hots up in the run-up to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections mid-next year, it is becoming increasingly difficult for actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth to remain ambiguous about his political affiliations. The Tamil superstar who has been testing political waters for more than two decades is expected to make his plans clear. It is in this context, media persons had asked him if he thought BJP was such a dangerous party that some opposition parties are trying to form an anti-BJP alliance. Rajinikanth's response left them with no fresh insight into what is on his mind. He reportedly said that if the opposition parties think so, it must be so. Later on Tuesday, he clarified that "opposition parties believe BJP is dangerous, not him". People will decide if BJP is a dangerous party, he said. In over two decades of political flirtation, Rajinikanth has supported Congress and DMK. Two years ago when the BJP-led Central government decided to ban high-value currency notes, Rajinikanth was among the first few notable personalities who hailed the move as an appropriate measure to tackle black money. Later, he changed his stance and maintained that the implementation of the scheme was flawed.

Rajinikanth who has a huge fan base in Tamil Nadu is believed to have Chief Ministerial ambition and sees himself in the mould of MGR and Jayalalithaa. But he has never been in favour of AIADMK. Rather, he helped DMK win successive Assembly elections and form government in the state. In the changed political environment when both AIADMK and DMK are rudderless after the demise of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi and there is a political vacuum in Tamil Nadu that Rajinikanth can aspire to fill - but that's not so easy. DMK is headed by Karunanidhi's younger son Stalin who was groomed by his father as his political heir. And, as long as Stalin remains active on the political scene, there is little chance that Rajinikanth can become the CM with the help of DMK. That makes him keep a distance from DMK and avoid lending whole-hearted support to the party which is, in fact, his first preference. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Chief Chandrababu Naidu recently met Stalin in his latest initiative to forge an alliance of the opposition parties ahead of the Parliamentary elections next year. In Tamil Nadu politics, the regional parties AIADMK and DMK have traditionally been following a policy to oppose the national parties as they are viewed as representing the hegemony of north India in Indian politics or so the two parties believed.

Given the lack of political space for Rajinikanth to stake claim for the Chief Minister's post in Tamil Nadu, he has naturally other options to explore. The question for him now is whether he wants to join anti-BJP forces in their bid to unitedly fight BJP in the next Parliamentary election or he should join the BJP bandwagon. With 37 MPs out of 39 from Tamil Nadu, AIADMK is enormously well-entrenched and over the past fours years, it has made sure that it does not antagonise BJP, hinting at some understanding between the two parties. If Rajinikanth gets close to BJP, it would mean joining hands with AIADMK, a proposition that he never endorsed publicly. If Rajinikanth makes up his mind in favour of BJP, even BJP will have to recalibrate its strategy given its budding relations with AIADMK. So, the dilemma that the former bus conductor who rose to dizzy heights of stardom after a training programme in film-making is, which way he should go at the start of his formal entry into politics as none of the options available to him guarantees fulfillment of his desire to become Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister.

The political asset that Rajinikanth boasts is his tremendous fan base. He was planning to launch his political party and had said that he wants to be a political leader inspired by spirituality. He would try to care for the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden, the way MGR would show how he cared for the masses. Both BJP and Congress would benefit immensely if they are able to win Rajinikanth's support. For BJP, Rajinikanth joining forces with the saffron party would be especially meaningful in the way he can help BJP spread its wings in the southern states. But being new to politics, Rajinikanth still has his innocence intact when he says 'I am not a complete politician yet'. At 67, Rajinikanth is too old for any advice but the cardinal principle to come out of a dilemma is to listen to one's heart. If he finds a way, he will be eternally grateful to his instincts and if he fails, he will have the satisfaction to have done what his heart said.

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