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ANALYSIS | Rajinikanth Jolt Hits AIADMK & DMK, But He Has a Mountain to Climb

Politics in Tamil Nadu just got more interesting. The public of the state are ready to give Rajinikanth a hearing. Now it is up to the man himself, to make it count.

Sumanth Raman |

Updated:January 1, 2018, 10:39 AM IST
ANALYSIS | Rajinikanth Jolt Hits AIADMK & DMK, But He Has a Mountain to Climb
Rajinikanth gestures at supporters after announcing his entry into the politics, on the final day of a six-day-long photo session with fans, in Chennai on Sunday. (PTI Photo)

It took 21 years for this news to come and when it did, it had the initial impact that one may have expected from such an announcement. Superstar Rajinikanth's proclamation that he would enter politics, form a new political party and contest all 234 Assembly seats in the next state elections in Tamil Nadu has sent shock waves through the entire political establishment in the state.

Over the past several weeks, speculation had been building up about Rajini's potential entry into politics but too many false alarms over the past two decades, everyone was wary of it this time.

When he strode into the Raghavendra Marriage Hall on Sunday morning — a place where he has been meeting fans for the past few days — and started his speech the Tamil people hung on to every word of his. Having already said that he would make an announcement today, Rajinikanth cut to the chase quite quickly.

"There has been quite a build-up, isn't it?' he started and then quickly made the announcement that the fans were eagerly waiting for.

"I am entering politics and we will contest all seats in the next assembly elections, a decision regarding the Lok Sabha elections will be taken later," he said even as fans went into a tizzy.

He referred to a casteless, secular brand of politics that he wished to follow, apart from making the usual anti-corruption noises that almost everyone does.

Rajini also spoke about pursuing a spiritual brand of politics setting off speculation that a tie-up with the BJP would be on the cards at some stage.

Indeed, the BJP was the only party that enthusiastically welcomed Rajinikanth into politics. The others mostly played down the impact and parroted the same lines that anyone could enter politics and they wish Rajini well but his entry would have no impact on their vote base.

That clearly appears to be a misreading of the situation as there is a yearning for change in Tamil Nadu after decades of AIADMK and DMK rule.

The search for a leader to fill the vacuum caused by Jayalalithaa's demise and Karunanidhi’s exit from active politics is as yet unfulfilled. Rajinikanth, till recently, was just another one in the potential list of personalities wanting to fill that void. With his announcement today he has put himself at a pole position among the contenders.

The other contender, Kamal Haasan, was quick to wish Rajinikanth well on his political entry. But the entry of the superstar also poses the question of whether Kamal will take on him politically or work out an understanding.

Rajinikanth should surely know that he has a mountain ahead of him.

A man universally adored by people across party lines now will find new enemies. He needs to build a team that has credible faces in it. He needs to tap into a wide talent pool to identify those who he would want to join him in his political journey. He will know only too well that, including the members of his family or using the fans association to pick his key political lieutenants, will be a recipe for disaster.

There is also the other important matter at hand, of deciding on the ideology of the new party and defining his views on the issues of Tamil Nadu.

Money, too, is important to run a political party and it is still unclear as how Rajinikanth proposes to fund his new party.

For the moment though the announcement by the Superstar has somewhat taken the wind out of the sails of both the AIADMK and the DMK.

The distraction that Rajinikanth provides comes at a time when the AIADMK is split and rudderless and the DMK is struggling to come to terms with a devastating loss in the recent RK Nagar by-election. The smaller parties also fear marginalization, should Rajini be able to put together a credible party, as the RK Nagar by-election demonstrated how vote banks built over decades can evaporate within months.

Politics in Tamil Nadu just got more interesting. The public of the state are ready to give Rajinikanth a hearing. Now it is up to the man himself, to make it count.

(The author is a political observer. Views are personal)

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| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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