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In Land of Dravidian Rationalism, Rajinikanth Unleashes His 'Spiritual' Politics

In a land where for half a century, the Dravidian movement, with rationalism and atheism as its founding principles, has spread its roots and no leader has dared to oppose it, here was a larger than life celluloid figure turning everything upside down.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:December 31, 2017, 9:50 PM IST
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In Land of Dravidian Rationalism, Rajinikanth Unleashes His 'Spiritual' Politics
File photo of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth. (Image: PTI Photo/ R Senthil Kumar)
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Chennai: On the last day of 2017, megastar Rajinikanth rode to Tamil Nadu's political stage in his inimitable style and cleared the haze over his future. He declared that he would form his own party and contest on all the seats in the next assembly election.

If elected, he said, his government would be honest, transparent and secular. If the performance does not match his promises, he would dismantle the party.

But sweeping rhetoric aside, the most important announcement Rajinikanth made on Sunday was not about his entry, but the nature of politics he plans to follow - that of "spiritual politics".

In a land where for half a century, the Dravidian movement, with rationalism and atheism as its founding principles, has spread its roots and no leader has dared to oppose it, here was a larger than life celluloid figure turning everything upside down.

And from the torchbearers of the Dravidian cause, there was no angst or angry posturing, just silence.

The implication of this is enormous. Ever since CN Annadurai rode to power in 1967 on the back of anti-Hindi wave and opposition to religion and gods, not one leader has openly supported spirituality here.

From Annadurai to Periyar EV Ramasamy, and MG Ramachandran to M Karunanidhi, Dravidian movement has been a binding theme across political parties in the state.

This is also why the Hindutva, and by extension the BJP, failed to make an impact in Tamil Nadu. But Rajinikanth's entry could change the dynamic by making religion and spirituality mainstream ideas.

He is yet to spell out his philosophy beyond things like campaign against corruption and pro-poor policies, so his support for spirituality is the only glimpse into the superstar's mind.

"It's time for political change. We have to create a spiritual politics with no caste and religion barrier. My cornerstones would be honesty, transparency, secularity and spiritual politics. Spiritual politics according to me means fair and just politics," he said.

It still remains unclear what Rajinikanth's ideologies would be and one has to wait for the blueprint to know what he means by "spiritual politics".

RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy hopes Rajini's entry into TN politics would bring about tectonic changes in the 60-year-old "frozen Dravidian politics". "His spiritual politics is nearer to Modi's than to any one else in Tamil Nadu or outside,​" he said.

But a few political analysts claim 'spiritual politics' will not work for a state like Tamil Nadu. RK Radhakrishnan, associate editor of Frontline, said: "Rajini wants to transform Tamil Nadu from a state of Dravidian ideology centered politics to one that has the spiritual path as its pursuit."

"Common sense tells us that this can possibly happen in a contended society, which has no major social ills affecting it. Unfortunately, Tamil Nadu is not in that space, and I believe that this is the essential contradiction in his newly articulated approach to politics," he added.

Vaasanthi, author and a political analyst, said Dravidian identity is very strong in the state and has seen resurgence lately.

"Dravidian politics won't come to an end. Both the DMK and AIADMK parties have vote banks. But Rajini's entry will have an impact on the Dravidian parties considering the fan following he has." She added that this kind of spiritual politics may not work because people may be wary of the BJP.

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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