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Will Rajini enter politics?

The time is ripe for an alternative after the death of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. There is no tall leader to keep AIADMK united.

Will Rajini enter politics?
Will the Tamil superstar Rajinikanth finally enter politics? Tamil Nadu is abuzz with speculation that the veteran actor might make a dramatic entry soon. Indeed it is quite hard to keep up with how many times this speculation has come up in the past 21 years as almost all the mainline parties have been wooing him before the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

The renewed frenzy over whether the star will become a "neta" began since last week when Rajinikanth met his fans after eight long years for a greet-and-meet event and said: "God decides what we have to do in life. Right now, he wants me to be an actor, and I'm fulfilling my responsibility. If God willing, I will enter politics tomorrow. If I enter, I will be very truthful and will not entertain people who are in this to make money. I won't work with such people."

The first time such serious talk about Rajinikanth joining politics came when he met Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao in 1996. While Rajini shied away from taking a plunge, he helped the DMK-led front by issuing a statement: "If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu." Rajini said recently: "About 21 years ago, I was involved in a political accident, during that time for some reasons I had announced my support to a political coalition. And my fans and people of Tamil Nadu ensured a victory for that coalition. Since that day my name is being dragged in every time there is an election. And that's the reason I keep clarifying that I don't support any political party every time," he said.

There is no doubt Rajinikanth has been making political statements now and then. In 2004, he supported the BJP-AIADMK alliance after getting assurances that they would solve the drinking water crisis in Tamil Nadu. He took on Paatali Makkal Katchi leader Anbumani Ramadoss after the latter mounted a campaign against his on-screen smoking. In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met him just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which created an image that Rajinikanth had endorsed the BJP.

After all, there have been many other South Indian film stars like MG Ramachandran, J Jayalalithaa, NT Rama Rao, Ambreesh, and Chiranjeevi who have made a mark in politics. But not all film star-turned politicians have been successful. Sivaji Ganesan who broke away from Congress could not succeed. Even Captain Vijayakanth who launched his DMDK in 2005 and won some seats in 2006 has found to his dismay that politics and films are two entirely different fields. Another actor Sarath Kumar who had quit the DMK and launched his outfit and also won two seats has found that it's hard to sustain in politics.

So if he finally makes up his mind, can Rajinikanth succeed? This is indeed a million-dollar question. The time is ripe for an alternative after the death of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK is split, and there is no tall leader to keep it united. The 93-year-old DMK patriarch Karunanidhi is ailing. His son Stalin is struggling to keep the party united. Captain Vijayakanth has almost disappeared. The BJP and the Congress have no credible faces.

Secondly, Rajini is 67 years old. The time is ripe for him to choose another field if he is tired of films. He has thousands of fan clubs not only in India but also abroad. He has a Robin Hood image as he has projected himself as the champion of poor just as MGR did through his films. The people are disenchanted with the Dravidian parties, which are infested with factionalism, internal quarrels, lack of leadership and lack of vision. So if Rajinikanth could come up with a new vision, he might click.

Thirdly, he has a choice of launching his outfit supported by the BJP or joining the BJP as its Chief Ministerial face. He has excellent equations with Prime Minister Modi. The BJP is looking to import popular leaders from outside. The BJP chief Amit Shah has welcomed Rajini to come to politics. He also has an option with the Congress which has not stopped wooing him all these years.

Fourthly, Tamil Nadu is vexed with the kind of political vacuum it has and is looking for someone who can provide good governance and take the state forward. He has the advantage of starting with a clean slate. "If I decide to join politics, I won't allow wrong people to join me, I'll keep them away," he had declared. His millions of adoring fans believe that only he can fill the void. His fans are happy that he has stated, "I will call you when there's a war. You come then. In the old days, all men would go when there was a war."

Rajini's fans remember his famous "Muthu" film dialogue where he said, "no one knows when or how I will enter but I will enter at the right time." Has that time come or will Rajini disappoint his fans again? No one is willing to take a bet.

(The views are strictly personal.)
Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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