Twist in starry TN politics
Can Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan replace Amma?
Tamil Nadu politics is taking an interesting turn after the entry of the two superstars – Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. After their appearance together recently on the occasion of the 101st birth anniversary of former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, who was himself a superstar, there are speculations whether the two actors would work together in politics where both are novices.
No doubt Tamil Nadu has moved on from the days when movie fame meant an automatic route to political success. Even in the days of MGR, there were actors like Shivaji Ganesan who was equally popular could not make it in politics. Also, the voter awareness, caste politics and media scrutiny has changed the political climate.
The two actors have ventured into politics eyeing the vacuum created after the death of the AIADMK supremo J.Jayalalithaa and the DMK chief M Karunanidhi taking back seat due to health reasons. Both have now moved to the next stage after long hesitation. Now the question is whether they can work together or go their separate ways in politics and even if they work together can they deliver? While Kamal Haasan has been more forthright saying, "If he (Rajinikanth) joins politics, it won't be difficult for us to discuss politics. I will join him provided he enters politics." But Rajini was vague and merely mumbled: "Time only will tell".
Whether they work together or not their challenges are many. Rajini knows this that they cannot simply depend on their superstar status. He had said in September, "It takes little more than stardom to be a successful politician. I really don't know the secret, but I think Kamal Haasan knows it."
The first challenge for both is to build a cadre. This is one of the most difficult challenges, as one cannot build cadres in a day or a few months. With Tamil Nadu politics wobbling with instability and lack of leadership, even Assembly elections cannot be ruled out along with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls or even earlier. Therefore the time is short though both have the advantage of their fan clubs spread all over the state. They have to organise these clubs to convert them as their political workers.
The second is to find an alternate narrative to woo the voters. What would they offer to the electorate? Also, Tamil Nadu is a highly political state with years of Dravidian politics entrenched in it. Rajini is talking of "spiritual politics". How can he sell this to the electorate? As for Kamal Haasan, he is an atheist, closer to the Dravidian ideology, but he has left leanings.
Both have to spell out their ideology, their stand on a number of key issues like Cauvery water, NEET examination, Hindi imposition and other issues clearly and also how they want to change the political culture. They also have to clarify their views on the established regional and national parties and their stand on Dravidian culture.
Interestingly, both have been talking about corruption but can that be an issue in a state, which is rotten with corruption for many years? Both the major political parties – the AIADMK and the DMK have faced allegations of corruption. How do they propose to check corruption? So far Kamal Haasan has asked his supporters to tweet examples of corruption in the state. Rajinikanth has called the system rotten needing change. Beyond this, we know very little of what they stand for.
Thirdly, and more importantly, both the actors need a lot of funds to run a party. With huge funds at the disposal of the AIADMK and the DMK, they need enormous amount of money for the elections be it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls or the next Assembly elections. Rajini is a Maharashtrian with no political base in Tamil Nadu, while Kamal Haasan is a Brahmin, whose community has lost political influence today. So both need to find backers in caste as well as money and muscle power. While BJP is ready to back Rajinikant, Kamal has been hobnobbing with the left and Aam Aadmi Party. He is also friendly with the DMK.
Fourthly, both stars know that it may be foolhardy to try to take up the challenge on their own if they combine together without arithmetic. They will have to look for alliances. Tamil Nadu has a changed political atmosphere today. While Kamal may get support from the DMK alliance, Rajini can depend upon the BJP for funds and the national clout although BJP has only a toehold in the state. DMK has cadre and money but no leader. Also, it is not clear which way the party will look for alliance. Will it dump the Congress and go with the BJP? In any case, all players need each other and alliance is the only way forward for them including Rajini and Kamal Haasan.
The electorate will be watching for their alternative narrative, their programmes and alliances before they make up their mind and not simply vote based on their superstar status.