“Politics announced it will be joining Rajinikanth in Tamil Nadu”, tweeted a popular Twitter user. Thousands of Social Media posts echoed the sentiment, welcoming Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, affectionately referred to as Thalaiva (the leader) as he announced his entry into politics on the last day of 2017. The actor’s decision to enter the political arena has been a long anticipated one and ended years of suspense and speculation.
Enter Superstar Rajini
On the last day of 2017, superstar Rajinikanth announced his entry into politics. He promised hundreds of fans who eagerly listened to his speech at the Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam of Chennai that he would soon float a party that will contest from all 234 seats in the next state legislative assembly elections of Tamil Nadu. The next state polls are scheduled to be held in 2021. While it is clear that the 67 year old actor is yet to finalize the party name and agenda, he seemed to be clear about two things. Firstly that his party would be staunchly opposed to corruption in all forms. The other he said was “Jaadhi madham illaadha aanmiga arasiyal”, a statement that roughly translates into “Spiritual politics devoid of religious communalism and casteism”. Following the announcement, Rajini also went ahead and launched his website and mobile application that would allow supporters to sign up in favour.He said that his party would herald “a good political transformation” indicating that he may not be in favour of joining hands with either the AIADMK or the leading opposition party, DMK. The BJP, which is keen to find a foothold in the state, has welcomed the actor’s decision to join politics. Veteran actor Kamal Hassan also expressed his joy at the decision.
From Movies To Politics
The entry of eminent actors and actresses into politics is not a new feature in Indian politics. The people of south India, Tamil Nadu in particular, seem to be more susceptible to the charms of their silver screen idols.
No one can perhaps match up to the sway that actor, director M.G. Ramachandran (popularly called MGR) held over the masses. From splitting away from the DMK to establishing the AIADMK and holding the CM’s office for a decade (1977-1987) whatever MGR did, the Tamil masses worshipped their celluloid hero. Jayalalitha herself was MGR’s on screen protégée turned political heir. Her fame and beauty translated into political influence and success, compounded by her administrative acumen and populist schemes. From From Vijayakanth to Ramya and from S. S. Rajendran to R. Sarathkumar all the way to Kamal Hassan, TN politics is studded with stars from the movies. Rajinikanth has a huge fan following but will it translate into votes? Only time will tell.
TN Politics Gets Murkier
Ever since the death of former CM Jayalalitha, the politics of Tamil Nadu has grown murkier and murkier yet. The return of the Mannargudi family with Jayalalitha’s former aide Sasikala at the helm attracted much controversy and criticism. Next came the split in the AIADMK with O Pannerselvam claiming to be the true successor of Amma (Jayalalitha). What followed was pure drama. While the Sasikala camp put up all party MLAs in a Pondicherry resort, OPS claimed that they were being held against their will, and some MLAs even managed to “escape” to pledge support to OPS. Eventually, E Palaniswami made his way to the CM’s office but the split in the party led to much political uncertainty.
High drama continued through February 2017 as the Supreme Court handed Sasikala a 4 year prison term and dashed her hopes of becoming the CM again. Peace was eventually brokered between the OPS and Palaniswami factions but Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dinakaran and 9 others were expelled from the party. Despite this TTV Dinakaran won the RK Nagar by-election in December 2017, a seat held by Jayalalitha herself, becoming the first independent candidate in Tamil Nadu to win by-elections. Events such as Kamal Hassan announcing his entry into politics (but refusing to join BJP) and the PM’s visit to DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s residence have left the people of the state rattled and confused. No clear alliances have been formed; the party in power is under threat from internal and external agencies; and the DMK does not yet have adequate support. The entry of Rajinikanth and the promise of a new party with a clean image comes as a much needed respite to the common man.
What remains to be seen, though is if Rajinikanth is as good a political leader as he is an actor.