At 70, can Rajinikanth pull off an NTR?
Tamil Nadu, where Assembly elections are scheduled to be held early 2021, had seen sharing of power between the two Dravidian parties DMK and AIADMK
Tamil Nadu, where Assembly elections are scheduled to be held early 2021, had seen sharing of power between the two Dravidian parties DMK and AIADMK. But now it is all set to witness a multi-cornered fight with heavy dose of filmi glamour as Tamil superstar Rajinikanth has finally announced that he is launching his party on December 31 and will contest all 234 seats in the next Assembly elections.
Rajinikanth, who had become very popular with his auto-wallah image, incidentally, got Auto as his party symbol. Many analysts are of the opinion that Rajinikanth has played the "will he, won't he" game for too long and that at this age and given his health conditions, it may be difficult for him to create an impact. But what needs to be considered is that there has been a change in the political atmosphere of Tamil Nadu.
Neither the DMK stalwart K Karunanidhi who became the Chief Minister for five non-consecutive terms is alive nor is J Jayalalithaa who ruled the State as Chief Minister six times. Ever since the death of Jayalalithaa, the State politics has seen lot of turmoil. The BJP which could never dream of getting a foothold in Tamil Nadu found an opportunity to fish in the troubled waters and had succeeded in making the AIADMK a friendly party.
Another film star, Kamal Haasan has also announced that he would work with Rajinikanth in the next elections. Hence, the timing of Rajni to plunge into active politics has all the potential to shake up the poll scenario. Despite public denials by Rajinikanth, it appears that Rajni's Makkal Sevai Katchi is in the good books of the BJP and could be called as a friendly party if not an ally.
His ideology is close to the BJP, claim BJP leaders. His statements praising the policies of Prime Minster Narendra Modi and comparing Modi and Shah as Krishna and Arjun in Mahabharata and the way he supported the Citizenship Amendment Act in February, throw some light on his political leanings at the national level. Tamil Nadu election had always seen caste playing a major role.
The superstar who is known as a spiritualist, certainly will have a tough time to steer clear from the traditional politics based on caste, creed and religion. Rajni may not have anything to do with one particular caste or religion but then he cannot keep the party out of this phenomenon completely. His political advisors comment that Rajni will adopt political journey of inclusiveness without any kind of discrimination.
It sounds music to ears, but it remains to be seen how effective this would be at the ground level when one has to fight to win the seats. He also will have to take on the important and established leaders from the dominant castes like Gounders, Thevars, Vanniyars, SCs and Isai Vellalar community.
While Chief Minister Palaniswami of AIADMK is from Gounder community, O Paneerselvam is from Vanniyars and M K Stalin of the DMK is from Isai Vellalar community. Rajinikanth who has massive fan following certainly will be a crowd puller. All his meetings will burst at seams with fans and his admirers, whistles and claps.
If Kamal Haasan joins him, it will further add to the fan following and the meetings will give an impression that the duo is going to sweep the polls. But we have seen that fans do not necessarily convert into party cadre nor do they vote en block. Moreover, the new party does not yet have an organised cadre.
Tamil Nadu is also known for showering gifts on voters like TV sets, mixer grinders and so on. Can the ageless Rajni overcome all these maladies with his filmi glamour and popularity. Hence, the big question is at 70, can Rajinikanth pull off an NTR?