After many a false start, superstar Rajinikanth is taking the plunge into the untested waters of Tamil Nadu politics with an innovative plan to rescue the State from the clutches of corrupt politicians. Barring the BJP, all political parties are worried. Departing from his “spiritual politics” of yesteryears, Rajnikanth unfolded his blueprint for a new Tamil Nadu at a crowded press conference in Chennai on 12 March.
Ever since the beginning of 2020, Rajinikanth has been show-casing his enormous mettle and tenacity to wade through the slippery political waters of Tamil Nadu. He publicly supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and emphasised the need for the National Population Register and the National Citizens’ Register.
He showed his courage by criticising EV Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar, a Tamil icon, which no aspiring politician had dared to do and got away with it. Periyar’s contribution to social justice is nonpareil. By tendering no apology for his anti- Periyar remark, he reinforced his macho film image on the political scene also. Though Rajini is yet to become a politician formally, his words matter.
He has an enormous following and has been periodically raising false alarms about entering politics. In the 1996 Assembly election, he endorsed the DMK alliance which trounced the AIADMK led by Jayalalitha. The political climate in the State was such the DMK did not need Rajinikanth’s endorsement, but he came to believe it was his support that caused the humiliating defeat of Jayalalitha.
“If I wanted to become the Chief Minister, I could have become one in 1996. If I was not keen at the age of 45, will I want to become the CM now?” he asks, exposing his political innocence. Rajinikanth is now 69. At the outset, Rajini ruled against projecting himself as the Chief Ministerial candidate of his yet-to-be-named party, but he will be the de facto Chief Minister. He is aware of the strong sentiment against a non-Tamil wanting to become the Chief Minister.
MG Ramachandran, founder of the AIADMK and former Chief Minister, was a Malayalee. That did not stand in the way of his becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. His successor Jayalalitha was a Mysore Brahmin but was readily accepted by the people of Tamil Nadu to head their government.
Rajinikanth, a born Maharashtrian and domiciled Kannadiga, faces strong opposition to becoming Chief Minister, especially by the Nam Tamiliar (We Tamils) Party led by Sreeman, which has grassroots-level following in all the 234 Assembly constituencies in the State. It is therefore a shrewd move on the part of Rajini to refrain from projecting himself as the chief ministerial candidate of his political party.