Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
After 25 years of anticipating Rajinikanth’s debut in politics, the wait is finally over: No political party after all.
In an announcement that has come as a huge disappointment to fans, actor Rajinikanth on Tuesday, 29 December, said that he will not launch his political party as scheduled on account of his poor health.
“A perpetually reluctant politician”, is how six political analysts described Rajinikanth and his tryst with politics.
The Never of the ‘Now or Never’ Happened
In December 2017, when the actor announced the idea of his party, many were thrilled to see a new wave, a change in narrative with a non-Dravidian entity entering the scene, promising welfare and freedom from corruption. As months passed by, all that happened were non-committal press conferences, delayed responses to public events, and grievance calls such as the one in Thoothukudi, which backfired. It was becoming clear that the superstar is a reluctant politician.
On 29 October, newspapers flashed the headlines ‘Is Rajinikanth quitting politics?’ based on a ‘note’ purportedly authored by the actor that has been in circulation. In the note, the star has allegedly cited the coronavirus pandemic, his age, health condition and uncertainty over the availability of a vaccine as reasons behind his decision to quit politics.
Rajinikanth said that it was not his letter but added that the information on his health and doctors’ advice was true and that he wwould soon revert with a decision after speaking with Rajini Makkal Mandram.
A member of the Rajini Makkal Mandram told The Quint on condition of anonymity that the note was shared by them to buy the actor some time from media’s speculations.
Earlier this month, Rajinikanth finally appeared ready to launch his political party. The rumoured logo of an auto rickshaw had already won the Baashha star brownie points. Most autorickshaw drivers have been Rajini fans, especially after the release of Baashha, a movie in which he becomes an auto-driver in Chennai to live down his earlier avatar of a don from Mumbai, only to be dragged back into the real world.
To top it all was the cake for his birthday this month, that read ‘Now or never.’
“We want our Thalaiva to be in his best of health. That is of prime importance and not politics. We will continue to do good work in his name, we don’t need a designation,” said a source close to Rajini Makkal Mandram.
On Friday, sources had told The Quint that the actor will release a video on social media announcing the launch and specifics of the party. What went wrong in two days?
A source said that the actor weighed his options and risks involved and figured “this was a better decision in the present climate of the world and politics.”
“After the recent presser, I was very sure because he categorically told that even if his life goes away, he will do this. I thought we were all wrong to estimate him. But this came as a U-turn. What we are still trying to understand is, he had planned his exit already with that note. It is very strange that he did a media briefing that he will soon announce the specifics of the party. But what happened? Nothing has changed from then to now, even with COVID,” said Sumanth Raman, political analyst.
So No Tango With BJP?
There has been a lot of pressure from the BJP’s head office in Delhi to discuss the actor’s association with the saffron party, sources told The Quint. RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy met Rajinikanth several times and reportedly insisted that he should reconsider his plans on staying away from politics. The BJP reportedly wants the actor to speak up for the saffron party and build their image which could make inroads into the vote banks of the Dravidian parties.
Ahead of the announcement, political analyst Sumanth Raman had said that even if he doesn’t launch a party, he expects the actor “to come out with some sort of an endorsement” and “expect the BJP to also insist that Rajini’s image be used in the campaigns to garner support for BJP.”
Meanwhile, Gurumurthy tweeted in reaction to the actor’s announcement.
“Rajinikanth believes in politics that is spiritual, fair, equal and he wanted only the most educated and eligible to become leaders of his team. Due to his ill health, he has considered standing in the sidelines and only guiding us, than actively joining politics. We want him to be healthy and so welcome his decision,” said a source close to the actor.
Several political analysts opined that Rajinikanth extending support to the saffron party won’t sway votes in any way.
“I don’t think he will utter any word of support because that will affect his image in front of the public. He will have no role to play in the electoral politics,” political analyst Ravindran Duraisamy said.
“Whatever he says wont matter as his credibility is zero now. It wont make any impact. He has shown to be not true to his word, then how does it matter whom he asks people to support.”Sumanth Raman, Political Analyst
Will a 1996 Repeat Happen?
Gurumurthy in his tweet has hinted that a 1996 could repeat this year, too.
To give you context, Rajini has been dropping hints about his political aspirations since the 1990s, and made it official on 31 December 2017. He had said, “I will enter politics and launch a party to serve the people of Tamil Nadu as the (political) system in Tamil Nadu has been ruined.”
Many political commentators said that in 1996, his punch line, “Even God cannot save Tamil Nadu" if the AIADMK comes back to power, resulted in the party’s humiliating defeat, with it winning just four Assembly seats out of 234, and Jayalalithaa herself losing. In the aftermath, Karunanidhi expressed his gratitude to the icon, saying that he had blessed the DMK-Tamil Maanila Congress alliance.
What Happens to Rajini Makkal Mandram?
As a precursor to the formation of a political party, the actor’s fan clubs had been converted into the Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM), or so was assumed. In the past three years, the team has been meeting people in different districts, understanding their grievances, arranging food and shelter for those in need, without publicising much. A member of the team said that the actor had insisted that “those who wish to make no money and want to work for the worth of their education without expecting returns should join RMM.”
The Quint reached out to several RMM members but they were unable to comment.
“In a recent meeting with the Rajini Makkal Mandram, the members had opined that we should work extra hard to ensure we make a difference. Many talked about how Rajinikanth could be the next Jayalalithaa or Karunanidhi. But you should understand, they are very different. The former two rose up the ranks with their work on ground, while Rajinikanth is making an entry into politics just now. The fear of losing is also there, because the expectations are sky-high and the pandemic is making ground work not possible,” said a source working closely with the actor.
As for the fans, wishes are pouring in any way, “Thalaiva! Naanga irikkom, bayamen?! (We are there for you. Why worry?).
So is this the end of the Rajinikanth episode? Um, probably yes, finally.