Will He, Won’t He?

Su­per­star Ra­jinikanth keeps ev­ery­one guess­ing about his po­lit­i­cal de­but

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon

God will de­cide, Ra­jinikanth says, when he will join pol­i­tics. “He wants me to be an ac­tor now. If he wants me to be some­thing else, I will play that part as well,” he adds. But the 66-year-old Tamil su­per­star was clearly hedg­ing, not pre­pared to spell out his plans just yet.

He dropped many hints while in­ter­act­ing with crowds of dot­ing fans over five days—May 15 to 19—in Chen­nai. “I’m a pachai Tamizhan (true Ta­mil­ian),” Ra­jinikanth grandly de­clared on the con­clud­ing day, while ex­hort­ing fol­low­ers to brace for a bat­tle to usher in change. Af­ter four hugely suc­cess­ful decades as an ac­tor, he’s now ev­i­dently gear­ing up to fol­low ac­tor-politi­cians like M.G. Ra­machan­dran and J. Jay­alalithaa into pol­i­tics.

Many be­lieve now would be a great mo­ment for Ra­jinikanth to take the plunge. Things are look­ing un­cer­tain in both the main­stream Dravid-

ian par­ties—the AIADMK af­flicted by in­tense fac­tion­al­ism in the wake of Jay­alalithaa’s demise, and grow­ing con­cerns in the DMK given the fail­ing health of party pa­tri­arch M. Karunanidhi.

The ac­tor told fans that he’s look­ing for sys­temic change. “We have good lead­ers like (M.K.) Stalin, An­bu­mani (Ra­ma­doss) and See­man, but what do we do when the sys­tem is bad? When democ­racy has de­te­ri­o­rated?” Ra­jini asked while care­fully avoid­ing any neg­a­tive per­sonal ref­er­ences. “I have my pro­fes­sion, my job. I have some re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and you have your jobs. Go back to your places and do your job. Let’s meet when it’s time for bat­tle,” he said to them.

That Ra­jinikanth is look­ing to ac­ti­vate his ex­ten­sive and highly com­mit­ted fan club is ob­vi­ous. An­a­lysts be­lieve he could go with ei­ther of two op­tions— launch a new po­lit­i­cal party like N.T. Rama Rao did with the Tel­ugu De­sam Party in neigh­bour­ing Andhra Pradesh in 1982, or join hands with the BJP, which wants to es­tab­lish more than just a pres­ence in Tamil Nadu.

Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh ide­o­logue and Thuglak editor S. Gu­ru­murthy says, “The fact that Ra­jini said he will keep out the wrong peo­ple if he forms a party means he has spe­cific in­ten­tions in mind.” State BJP chief Tamil­i­sai Soundarara­jan, too, has lauded Ra­jinikanth’s state­ments. Of course, the BJP knows the su­per­star’s back­ing would give the party’s prospects a mas­sive boost. Ra­jini’s iconic sta­tus could bring in a big chunk of young and women vot­ers to their fold.

But Tamil Nadu Congress pres­i­dent Su. Thirunavukkarasar, who’s known the ac­tor for 35 years, says Ra­jini is un­likely to join any party. “He’ll start one of his own,” says the Congress leader. Main­stream politi­cians in the state are clearly wary of Ra­jinikanth’s ar­rival on the po­lit­i­cal scene. PMK leader An­bu­mani Ra­ma­doss says, “Tamil Nadu doesn’t need an­other ac­tor-leader; we need an ed­u­cated leader.” Oth­ers even ac­cused Ra­jinikanth of pe­ri­od­i­cally us­ing pol­i­tics to pro­mote his films. Which­ever way he de­cides to go, it’s em­i­nently clear that Thalaiva (‘leader’, as fans ad­dress Ra­jini) will have the last laugh.

PTI

THALAIVA, THALAIVA Ra­jini with fans in Chen­nai last week

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