Politics & Governance

Can Mega Star Rajnikanth Create A Political Revolution In Tamil Nadu?

Rajnikanth can cut into the votes of the AIADMK and the DMK. Mid term poll cannot be ruled out. 

Mega star Rajnikanth has taken a shade over two decades to overcome the nagging doubts and vacillation before taking the political plunge last Sunday on New Year’s eve. His legion of fans were ecstatic that he will float his party at the appropriate time and contest all the 234 seats in the Tamil Nadu assembly.

What cannot be denied is the cine star’s immense appeal and charisma among the people in the southern state. Dravidian politics surged to the fore in 1967 when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) sent the entrenched Indian National Congress packing bringing about a path breaking change in Tamil Nadu’s political terrain.

Rajnikanth believes the state has become a laughing stock in the country compelling him to change his mind even if it is twenty years too late. His entry into politics has the portends of denting the vote base of the two domineering Dravidian parties — the AIADMK holding the reins of power in Chennai and its arch rival the DMK. 

The highly circumspect Dravidian majors sought to put up a brave front in the wake for Rajnikant’s foray into politics emphasising it was unlikely to affect them adversely. 

However, with the death of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa in December 2016 after she had steered her regional party to a second successive victory in the assembly elections in the earlier part of that year, the second rung leaders appear out of depth looking over each other’s shoulders and finding it difficult to keep the flock together.   

Then TTK Dhinakaran, a nephew of jailed Sasikala, a confidant of the late Jayalalithaa, managed to win the RK Nagar assembly seat handsomely in a bye-election recently. The prestige of this seat was self evident as Jayalalithaa had represented this constituency on the outskirts of Chennai. 

This has added a new dimension to the ongoing intrigues within the AIADMK on the one side and the independent Dhinakaran on the other. He has threatened to see the back of the shaky and rudderless AIADMK government within three months. 

The DMK candidate at RK Nagar finished a poor third facing the ignominy of losing his deposit. 

The next assembly election in Tamil Nadu is due in 2021. However, considering the intense differences within, the factions headed by chief minister A Palaniswamy and deputy chief minister O Paneerselvam have managed to keep themselves afloat so far. 

The chances of this arrangement pulling through another three years till the assembly elections  2021 appears remote. Discriminating Tamil Nadu watchers believe irrespective of Rajnikanth entering politics, the AIADMK is a sinking ship. Senior leaders intending to quit the party would find Dhinakaran a better option than opting for Rajanikanth. 

In the DMK camp there are underlying fears that if Rajnikanth’s party is able to draw a few thousand of votes from its kitty, it might prove dangerous for them as their chances of regaining power in Tamil Nadu goes for a toss. 

The significance of this is that unlike the Lok Sabha polls, a few thousand or even a few hundred votes, can tilt the balance in an assembly election. This is particularly so in Tamil Nadu.  

Under the circumstances the DMK, whose patriarch M Karunanidhi is as good as out of the contention because of age and ill health, might have to redraw their strategy by cobbling up a winning combination. 

On the other hand Rajnikanth lacks the experience as a politician. He wants to register his fan clubs all over state even as members of this organisation have been doing social work for promoting the actor. 

Nevertheless, the arrival of Rajnikanth in politics can pose a challenge to the AIADMK and the DMK. The AIADMK lacks a tall and credible leader as Jayalalithaa deliberately did not build a second line of leadership thus snuffing out any challenge to her leadership. 

For the DMK the march to victory might become more difficult. Also the cine fans forming the AIADMK’s original support base could migrate to Rajnikanth’s party. 

There are those who believe Rajnikanth sharing his thoughts in his retirement age is unlikely to work. Interestingly, the actor has drawn attention to pursuing “spiritual politics” which is an indication that he might align with the BJP. 

As evidenced during the 2014 general elections, the Lotus party remained keen to have a truck with a charismatic personality in Tamil Nadu having the prospects of being catapulted to seat of power at Fort St George in Chennai. 

The BJP is desperate for a breakthrough in Tamil Nadu which is critical for enlarging its base in that state which contributes a sizeable 39 seats to the Lok Sabha. The question is will Rajnikanth be able to provide an alternative to the two major Dravidian parties. 

For now the mega star has not spelt out anything about the party in terms of its name, the flag or the key points of his manifesto. He has also said that if he does not fulfil the pledges in three years he will call it quits. 

Not all film stars with a political itch have been able to catch the imagination of the people of Tamil Nadu. If MGR and Jayalalithaa were highly successful, those who have fallen by the wayside include Sivaji Ganesan and Chiranjeevi among others. 

It might be premature to assess what impact Rajnikanth’s proposed party will have on the people. Even as his moves need to be watched closely, the star struck people of Tamil Nadu appear hell bent on having him as the chief minister at least once. Lets wait and see.  

(Views are personal.)

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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