Will ‘Spiritual Politics’ work in a maze of foes and fiends?
The announcement of Tamil film industry Superstar Rajinikanth on December 31, 2017 that he would enter politics ‘well in time for the general elections 2021 and contest in all the 234 constituencies,’ ended a 20-year old speculation as to ‘Will he, or Won’t he?’ among his millions of fans and supporters, apart from his adversaries including politicians.
Announcing his decision from the balcony of ‘Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam,’ a large marriage hall owned by him, Rajinikanth said, “Politics in the State has deteriorated very badly. Democracy has undergone severe decay. In the last year, the political events that unfolded in Tamil Nadu have made the people hang their heads in shame. Politicians in all States are laughing at us. If don’t do anything in a democratic way to change this situation, the feeling of guilt will affect me till my death,” he said.
He also promised to pursue ‘Spiritual Politics’ and not ‘Politics of Caste and Religion.’
New Party being launched
No doubt, pressure has been mounting on Rajinikanth to enter politics for some time now – more so since the past five years, as the Jayalalitha-Shashikala and the latter’s cronies became too much to bear.
He has said that he would launch a new Party before the next general election and has asked all his fan clubs to work for his Party.
Website sans Internet
“We will resign in three years if we cannot fulfill our election promises,” Rajinikanth said.
On January 1, 2018, Rajinikanth launched a website and an App on Google Play Store and appealed to members of his registered and unregistered fan clubs and others to enroll for his proposed political party.
The Website can be accessed only if the Internet is switched off.
Non-Controversial thus far
With about 75,000 Rajinikanth Fan Clubs, each claiming 25 members, the Superstar can expect to have at least 1.87 million supporters ‘within his hold.’
In addition, the people of Tamil Nadu adore him as a swashbuckling hero who is simple, honest and most important, successful.
The 67-year-old actor, who has thus far stayed out of controversies, has knowingly entered the labyrinth of politics, apparently assured by the wide support that he gets throughout Tamil Nadu. Indeed, there has been no actor of his ilk in the State since the AIADMK Founder and later Chief Minister M G Ramachandran entered politics after the famous Madurai Rally on October 17, 1972.
Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad to a Marathi family in Bengaluru (Bangalore) on December 12, 1950, he was given the mononymous name of Rajinikanth by his mentor, the late Producer-Director K Balachander. Tamil Nadu is known for welcoming and encouraging people from other States and housing the largest film industry in South India, Chennai became the home and launchpad for almost all South Indian actors.
Rajinikanth has done just 108 films, but most of them has had his full involvement- from choosing producers, directors, music directors, co-stars and even the banner, he had the last word. Some of this film bombed at the box office but to his fans, he is always a Superstar.
Since former Chief Minister and AIADMK Supremo, the late Jayalalitha Jayaram landed herself in trouble over wealth unrelated to income – her unaccounted cash, jewellery, properties, businesses and other assets in 1996 and the dark shadow of influence exercised by her closet friend Shashikala, Tamil Nadu politics has been murky.
With DMK Leader, former Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi too old to be involved in public affairs (he is 93 now) and with Shashikala serving a four-year jail terms and banned from politics for ten years and AIADMK divided into two camps, Rajinikanth could harbour hopes of capturing power in 2021.
Tamil Nadu politics has always been an enigma to people outside the State – that includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress (respectively) have been routed election after election – the former since its formation in 1976 and the latter since 1967.
People in Tamil Nadu have voted consistently for the past 40 years to either Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) or Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The two parties are at war and voters have swung between them at five-year intervals. AIADMK swept to power in the general election held in 2016 winning 134 seats out of 232 seats contested (elections were not held in two constituencies) but soon thereafter, Jayalalitha took seriously ill and passed away on December 5, 2016. Less than a month later, the Supreme Court of India struck down the acquittal of Jayalalitha, Shashikala and others implicated in the income-tax and other scandals.
Time will tell if Rajinikanth has stepped on a minefield and whether his political entry would further polarise the people of Tamil Nadu.
As it is, a few of his seniors in the Indian film industry are active- Vijayakanth and Sharath Kumar for instance. Kamal Hassan, another icon, has been writing about the current state of Tamil Nadu, its corrupt politicians and dysfunctional government in ‘Ananda Vikatan,’ a popular Tamil weekly.
It may not be too long before he announces his entry.
In such an event, Tamil Nadu politics will have the reminiscence of the 1960s when matinee idol Shivaji Ganeshan supported the Congress and even more popular MGR was raised by DMK and later started his party, AIADMK.
Cinema and Politics are two inseparable elements in Tamil Nadu.