Tamil cinema superstar Rajinikanth’s comment that “he never aspired to be chief minister” puts to an end any serious political journey for the actor in the coming assembly elections, even before it started.
It virtually makes a mockery of political observers and analysts who have been trying to assess his political leanings, ideology and intent over the last two years and were waiting for him to announce the launch of his political party.
On December 31, 2017, Rajini said that he will float a political party that will contest “all 234 assembly seats in the state”. But two years and three months down the line, he has only been busy in his film career, with four releases, and has not made an iota of progress with a political entry.
This raises questions on whether he was serious about politics at all or was he just making statements meant to keep him in the limelight to help bolster his presence at the box office.
Firstly, in terms of grassroots politics, he will only have a negligible impact if he does not position himself as the chief ministerial candidate. People need to see the star demonstrate his commitment to politics and that will happen only if he positions himself as the face of change. He cannot be a supporting artiste; he has to be the main lead and be in the fray.
Since 1996, when he was at the peak of his career, Rajini has issued statements of support for various political formations. Lately, in the last few elections, he has publicly expressed his affection for the Bharatiya Janata Party, but that has not resulted in any major impact to the saffron outfit's fortunes in the state.
This is evidence that merely getting Rajini’s endorsement does not amount to any major gains in Tamil Nadu and that’s true even for Dravidian parties. The Pattali Makkal Katchi swept its seats in the 2004 parliamentary elections despite the actor's outburst against it.
However, Rajini as the principal face of change may be a different story and that’s what people expected of him. He now seems to have ruled that out.
Secondly, Tamil Nadu elections are exactly a year away and Rajini has no time to delay the formation of a political party. This is not a Tamil movie script where he launches a party a few days before an election and wins. If he hasn’t done it by now, he may never have the right time to do it.
His colleague and competitor from the film industry, Kamal Haasan, despite having launched a party and extensively campaigning for it, failed to make a major impact during the Lok Sabha elections. In fact, a few months ago there was speculation of the two stars joining hands. But it's not clear if there was any seriousness to it.
Even the legendary MG Ramachandran had to build the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam slowly and steadily on the political arena with strategic alliances and Rajini cannot hope to be an instant hero in politics.
Interestingly, Rajini’s comment comes after his film ‘Darbar’ failed miserably at the box office. He had had a good run with three earlier releases, but this one was a disaster and some distributors even demanded that the producers return their money.
In any case, the reasons do not matter anymore and Rajini, with his statements, has only lowered his own credibility as a serious political possibility. He speaks of a revolution in politics, but that requires decades of grassroots work and organisation. But all that Rajini is offering is movie-style dialogues.
It may be best to take his politics lightly and enjoy the comments, like his films, without giving it too much thought. You never know when he will say just the opposite of what he has said.
(The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)