NTR at once plunged into politics, but, why are Rajini, Kamal, Pawan so indecisive? NT Rama Rao was never indecisive. He had at once plunged into politics to create a history by coming into power in a record time. His political announcement was immediately followed by a campaign tour. On the contrary, the super stars like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have been giving indications of their possible political arangetram. Rajinikanth seems to be more indeterminate. On the other hand, Pawan Kalyan, despite starting his party, is still unclear of his political journey. He himself said that he is unsure of his strength. Why is such a difference in the approaches of these top film stars?
Let Rajini learn from NTR
Rajinikanth who has conclusively hinted at joining politics might be awaiting an opportune moment. The era of stalwarts in Tamil politics is over. The death of Jayalalithaa and the virtual eclipse of M Karunanidhi due to old age leave a void in Tamil politics. Neither Stalin nor EPS/OPS can match the charisma of these leaders. In the war of titans, Rajinikanth would have been driven to the fringe. The experience of Vijayakanth, though no match to Rajini, indicates the possible destiny of Rajini in politics then.
Thus, the BJP would be desperate to have Rajini in. But, if the superstar makes any clever reading of Tamil politics, perhaps, he is sure to do so, it will be clear that Tamil people may not be favourable to any bonhomie with BJP.
Rajini has a large and structured fan base. But, most of them are over 40 years. He has to invent a formula to connect with youth. He is 66 years and his advancing age may also work against him. When NTR created history, he was at least seven years younger.
This is precisely why Rajini is talking about strategy to win the elections which he likened it to a war. Rajini in his latest interaction with the fans too emphasised that he required time to study and strategise. "We will see when the war comes and war is nothing but an election. One has to win a war. Bravery is not enough to win the war. Strategy is needed," superstar asserted.
Converting fan base into vote is not always assured. There are conflicting experiences. MGR and NTR succeeded. Vijayakanth and Chiranjeevi failed.
Rajini's articulating abilities from a public platform are yet to be tested. There is a difference in dialogue delivery in films and in politics. NTR was ambidextrous. But, this was the major limitation in Chiranjeevi.
But, there is a vacuum in Tamil politics today. The RK Nagar election verdict in which DMK could put up only a desperate show reveals this. Rajini has a formidable fan following. His non-Tamil identity may not so seriously matter in a State like Tamil Nadu which worshipped MGR and Jayalalithaa.
But, MGR was steeled in the fiery furnace of Dravidian identity politics. NTR vociferously stood for Telugu pride. Rajini is yet to invent his political idiom.
Meanwhile, his comrade-in-arms Kamal Haasan seems to be more decisive and demonstrating greater political clarity, though he may not be an exact match to Rajinikanth's unparallel charisma. Kamal categorically said that his colour is certainly not saffron as Tamil political landscape is not so fertile for Hindi-Hindu politics of BJP.
NTR at once plunged into politics, but, why are Rajini, Kamal, Pawan are so indecisive? NT Rama Rao was never indecisive. He had at once plunged into politics to create a history by coming into power in a record time. His political announcement was immediately followed by a campaign tour. On the contrary, the super stars like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have been giving indications of their possible political arangetram. Yet, they remain indecisive. Rajinikanth seems to be more indeterminate. On the other hand, Pawan Kalyan, despite starting his party, is still unclear of his political journey. He himself said that he is unsure of his strength. Why is such a difference in the approaches of these top film stars? One can easily derive a conclusion that NTR is personally known for strong decisions. But, this cannot be a satisfactory explanation as other film stars are not so inconclusive in nature.
The political situation has completely changed today when compared to that prevailing during NTR's time. The ruling Congress was thoroughly discredited. The opposition was in total disarray. As people were waiting for a change, NTR gave the confidence.
But, in Tamil Nadu's politics today, the ruling AIADMK is rudderless after the demise of Jayalalithaa, prompting Rajini and Kamal to test their political fortunes.
But, the recent electoral verdict reveals that the ruling AIADMK might be facing bitter fight between warring factions for inheritance rights over Jaya's political legacy, yet , the party has not yielded ground to the opposition. The emerging trends indicate that AIADMK's internecine battle may finally be clinched with the power-hungry politicians swiftly switching their loyalties to the side of the winner. But, this will not happen without inflicting severe damage on the party. But, it may not happen without the state assembly facing a mid-term poll as political instability engulfs the state.
With the AIADMK battered and DMK yet to be energised to fill the gap, the Tamil superstars feel political vacuum that can catapult them to power. But, all this is still at an evolving stage resulting in the dilemma.
There can even be many a slip between the cup and the lip for the filmy political stars. The possibility of internal battle bailing out the ruling AIADMK from the consequences of anti-incumbency cannot even be ruled out. The RK Nagar verdict further gives credence to such a political possibility.
The main opposition DMK is still strong enough to challenge the discredited AIADMK, though it has miserably lost the by-election. The opposition space is not vacant waiting for someone to fill the gap. Similarly, the ruling Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh is still formidable. The opposition YSR Congress is determined to challenge the ruling party with all its might.
Subsequent to NTR's political success, there are instances of film stars failing at the hustings. Chiranjeevi and Vijayakanth phenomena are the illustrations of this trend making the new entrants not so confident.
These film stars are superstars in their field and cannot compromise for anything less than the Chief Minister's gaddi. They are impatient and want immediate power. Precisely, this makes them more indecisive.
NTR phenomenon has not only dislodged mighty Congress, it has heralded a rich and enduring political legacy. Besides, altering the Telugu politics once for all, NTR phenomenon has galvanised the unity of anti-Congress forces across the nation. This was only due to NT Rama Rao's unwavering opposition to the ruling Congress dispensation. But, neither Pawan nor Rajini displays any such decisive political credentials.
NTR's political odyssey has given rise to strong regionalism in contemporary Indian politics, whereas Rajini or Kamal has to fight for a share in the regional political cake.
NTR's factor opened up bipolarity in Telugu politics as Telugu Desam, the party he founded, was a true challenger to the hitherto unassailable Congress. But, Chiranjeevi factor as is widely believed in political circles helped the Congress retain power in 2009 by splitting the anti-incumbency vote. The Pawan factor was a critical component in scripting TDP-BJP victory in post-bifurcation Andhra Pradesh in 2014. Will Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan define a discernable political legacy of their own in the vibrant Tamil political landscape? For this to happen, Rajinikanth should stop dancing on the fence and start acting on the political centre-stage.
Let Rajini learn from NTR!
Prof K Nageshwar