Tamil actor Rajinikanth has announced his political plunge at a time when it was least expected. On December 3, the actor took to Twitter to break the big news, with the tag ‘It’s now or never’ and met the press later to introduce a couple of his political aides.
Rajinikanth also assured to announce his political party unlike in previous instances where he had addressed the media regarding his political career. The party is expected to contest in the upcoming Assembly elections in May 2021.
With the announcement, right-wing supporters of the actor seem to be jubilant, overtaking the fans of the actor. The second rung leadership of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other right wing forces welcomed the ‘timely’ decision, while political observers are still uncertain about the plans of the actor.
The actor has given a new lease of hope to the BJP, which has been persuading him to take the plunge after the death of two political stalwarts of the state J Jayalalitha and M Karunanidhi.
SPIRITUAL POLITICS: WHAT DOES HE REFER TO?
On December 3, the actor announced his intentions of pursuing a ‘secular, spiritual politics’. Almost three years earlier, on December 31, 2017, the super star had coined a news term, ‘spiritual politics’, the first time when he made a concrete announcement about his political intentions. During March 2018, he had expressed his wish for an uprising to take the political plunge, instead of creating one.
The actor himself has been found napping when asked to define spiritual politics or even the policies of his political party, while the political observers raise concerns over the ideological clarity of the actor. Now, by adding secular to it, the actor has further magnified the ambiguity on his policies. Much like other political aspirants, the actor aims to pursue "honest, transparent, corruption-free, caste-less politics”.
The only section which celebrated the announcement of the actor, apart from his long waiting fans are the right wing activists, parties and fringe groups. The actor has not announced anything about the alliance for the Assembly elections so far, but the jubilation in the right wing camp does send a signal as to what the actor may be intending to pursue in his political career.
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K Arunan, writer and historian said, “One political aid of Rajinikanth, ‘Tamilaruvi’ Manian recently has said that the their party won't ally with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) or the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). This leaves the option of allying with BJP open. The actor has also appointed the head of BJP’s intellectual wing as the chief coordinator of the party. If these are any signals for his political journey, we can ascertain what spiritual politics he is planning to pursue.”
(A tweet by S Gurumurthy, an RSS ideologue and editor of Thuglak magazine. He reportedly brokered peace between the two warring factions of the AIADMK and is a strong critic of dravidian politics in the state)
STRUGGLES AND OPPOSITION
The actor has, on many occasions, downplayed the peoples’ struggles and stood in favour of the ruling dispensation. He has also shown his aversion to the rightful struggles of different sections of the society. The announcement of the nationwide bandh by the farmers, too, did not evoke a response from him.
R Vijaya Sankar, editor of Frontline told NewsClick, “When 13 people were killed in daylight in Thoothukudi during the anti-Sterlite protests, Rajinikanth did not even condemn the killing and said if the people hold struggles for all issues, the state will become a graveyard. It was one of the most insensible comments from the actor.”
The actor, in a press meet in Thoothukudi, went on to state that ‘anti-social elements’ had infiltrated the protests, when the state was mourning the death of the protesters. A similar claim was made by the BJP and AIADMK leaders, who even justified the firing.
Earlier this year, the actor supported the government’s move on Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) and alleged the protesters of being misguided, an oft quoted statement by the BJP on many occasions in recent times.
On the other hand, the actor was all praise for the Modi-government when demonetisation was announced, which later proved to be an utter failure. Rajinikanth had also praised the Modi-Shah duo and equated them to Krishna and Arjuna, after the abrogation of Article 370.
‘WHAT SYSTEM SHOULD CHANGE’
The actor, in his December 2017 speech, wanted to ‘change the system’. In the December 3 press meet, he repeated the same. He unveiled an all out attack on the Dravidian parties and accused them of looting public money. Meanwhile, the actor himself has reportedly violated norms, attracting sharp criticism.
“It is still unclear which system he wants to change. If he is referring to corruption among others, the root cause for all such activities are the policies of the government. We have never seen him speak about any policies of the ruling parties. His claims of the Dravidian parties playing a destructive role in the state itself is a farce,” Vijaya Sankar added.
The actor has also never uttered a word against the socio political issues affecting the workers and farmers of the country; neither has he spoken about the neo-liberal policies, bringing a huge divide in the society, except in his films, according to Sankar.
The innumerable sufferings of the people, due to the unplanned lockdown to contain the COVID-19 spread also failed to attract the attention of the famed actor.
FANS DISAPPOINTED ON APPOINTMENT OF OUTSIDERS
The reactions have been mixed over the actor’s announcement, with only a smaller section receiving the message with hope. The Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM) is also reportedly disappointed by their ‘Thailavar’s’ decision on the appointment of outsiders to the key posts of the party.
Arjuna Murthy, the former head of BJP intellectual wing, has been named as the chief coordinator of the party and ‘Tamilaruvi’ Manian, a former Congress leader who has been lobbying for the political entry of Rajinikanth for the past several years, as the supervisor of the party.
The former is a relatively unfamiliar face in state politics and his appointment to the key post came as a huge shock rather than a surprise to the fans. The leader was later relieved from BJP and not dismissed from his responsibilities by the leadership.
‘WON'T BE CM CANDIDATE’
Earlier in December 2017, the jubilation of the fans as soon as the actor made his intentions clearwas short lived. He had announced that he won't occupy the chair of chief minister if his party wins the Assembly election, which has been reiterated by the super star in the recent announcement as well.
The public, too, has mixed opinions of the ability of the actor to reach out to the public, with the party being announce only five months before the Assembly elections. The present announcement on taking the political plunge surprising in itself given the health conditions of the Rajinikanth.
The inordinate delay in the actor’s decision to start a political, almost after 25 years since he first expressed his political aspirations, has weakened the fanbase to a larger extent. The actor turns 70 on December 12 and the fanbase is dominated by a similar age group, which will restrict their work in the ground.
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By the end of October, a message was viral in the social media circles, which claimed that the actor has been advised to take caution after a kidney transplant. The message also claimed that the health reasons are restricting Rajinikanth from taking the political plunge.
WHO IS RAJINIKANTH?
Rajinikanth, born as Shivaji Rao Gaekwad in Mysore, had a humble beginning in his life, as he worked as a conductor in the Bangalore transport department. He made his big screen debut in 1975 after being educated in the Madras film institute. The actor made a name for himself, developing political aspirations from the late 1990s. He had made his intentions about taking the political plunge through his choice of movies.
He was conferred with the Padma Vibhushan award in 2016. The ‘Icon of Golden Jubilee Award’ was awarded to him on the opening day of the 50th edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) held in Goa, which was termed as an invitation of BJP to join politics.
Kavitha, a resident of Dindigul, said, “Rajinikanth is a renowned actor. But, we have little hope of his success in political aspirations. His health conditions wont permit him to travel across the state during the elections, without which it is impossible to connect with the people.”
The actor has lost a considerable base among the fans, as many new stars have broken into the Tamil film industry. His popularly particularly suffered as he became victim to several medical problems in the recent past.
The actor has also been in controversy due to male chauvinistic and anti-worker dialogues in a few of his films. Not only that, suppression of dissenting voices and forcing women to obey the male protagonist have been some common themes in his movies.
REFLECTION IN POLITICS
Similar ideas, propagated through his films, are also reflected in his recent political statements, which have been against the struggles of the people and in favour of the ruling party, the BJP. He has not spoken about the any rampant issues, including that of caste atrocities and discrimination prevailing in the society as well.
The actor has spoken against the two Dravidian parties of colluding against the interest of the people. Though he has supported DMK in the 1996 Assembly elections, the relation did not remain cordial there after. By the 1998 general election, he became an ardent supporter of BJP and is now an even bigger supporter of Modi-Shah combo.
The AIADMK coordinator and the deputy chief minister O Panner Selvam (OPS) said that the party could think of an alliance with the actor’s party. The relationship between OPS and the BJP is an open secret, adding another twist in the tale. But the AIADMK could be the most affected party, if an alliance is stitched given the experience of the BJP allies in other states, the recent example being from Bihar.
Though the actor has finally decided to make the political entry, the ambiguity remains pretty much the same, except for the politics he could pursue.