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Was There a Rajinikanth Brand of Politics? Here are 10 Hints

In this very long yet brief stint, we decode what is the Rajinikanth brand of politics.

Published
India
8 min read
Rajinikanth & Politics: Actor Rajinikanth on 29 December said that he will not launch his political party as scheduled on account of his poor health.
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Fans of actor Rajinikanth carried out a rally in Chennai on Sunday, demanding that the superstar should join politics as earlier promised. Over 1,000 people took part in the protest, although Rajini Makkal Mandram's top leadership warned members against taking part in any kind of demonstration.

The rally at Valluvar Kottam comes despite the actor making it clear on Tuesday, 29 December, that he will not launch his political party as scheduled on account of his poor health.

In a letter posted on Twitter on 11 January, the actor reiterated that he cannot enter politics and requested that his fans to not hold such demonstrations.

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After nearly 30 decades of ‘Will he?’ ‘Will he not?’, the actor finally made it clear he is not entering politics, after all.

In this very long yet brief political stint, the actor always talked about ‘spiritual politics’ but what is the Rajinikanth brand of politics? The Quint looks at significant events that took place in the past three decades where the actor showed his political side.

The 2017 Political Chaos

Rajinikanth & Politics: In December 2017, the actor floated the idea of his political party.
Rajinikanth & Politics: In December 2017, the actor floated the idea of his political party.
(Photo Courtesy: Smitha TK/ The Quint)

In December 2017, when the actor floated the idea of his political party he said his brand of politics would be “truthful, straightforward and clean that is devoid of influence of caste and religion.”

“We need ‘spiritual politics’. That is my goal and wish.”

An Alternative to Dravidian Parties

On 12 March 2019, the actor laid out a general model on which his political party will be based. Tamil Nadu has been dominated by the Dravidian parties, DMK and AIADMK, for decades and Rajinikanth posed as an alternative.

“Politics in the state has deteriorated. Democracy has undergone severe decay,” Rajinikanth said back then, adding that his foray into politics was the compulsion of time.

Rajinikanth & Politics:
Rajinikanth & Politics:
“There are people who are above 50, who are trying to be in pole positions and youngsters are not allowed to lead - this is the general trend in Indian politics. I will try to change that in my part.”
Rajinikanth

This statement came a year after the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa in December 2016, the tussle between the OPS, EPS, TTV factions and the horse-trading of MLAs. In fact, his joining politics was a perfect end to 2017 – a year marked by political chaos in the state.

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A Dual Power Sharing Formula

Rajinikanth has from the beginning hinted that he will not be actively involved in politics. In several press conferences, he clarified that he cannot imagine being a chief minister and will instead be the leader of the party. The person who is sitting in CM’s chair will only govern and the party will question the government."

"There will be a party leader and the same will be chief minister candidate – and no one can question that,” he said.

Rajinikanth & Politics: 
Rajinikanth & Politics: 

What is/was RMM?

The Rajini Makkal Mandram, was seen as a precursor to a formal political party, with a concrete structure and dedicated wings in place. However, it was mostly full of politically inexperienced fans.

On 26 December 2018, under the leadership of Sinora PS Ashok, District Secretary, South Chennai East, food, uniforms and sweets were distributed to more than 500 auto drivers on the occasion of the actor’s birthday.
On 26 December 2018, under the leadership of Sinora PS Ashok, District Secretary, South Chennai East, food, uniforms and sweets were distributed to more than 500 auto drivers on the occasion of the actor’s birthday.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @rmmoffice)
More than a thousand members of the RMM council donated blood on 31 December 2018 at a blood donation drive held under the chairmanship of Dharmapuri District Secretary M Mahendran.
More than a thousand members of the RMM council donated blood on 31 December 2018 at a blood donation drive held under the chairmanship of Dharmapuri District Secretary M Mahendran.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @rmmoffice)
More than a thousand members of the RMM council donated blood on 31 December 2018 at a blood donation drive held under the chairmanship of Dharmapuri District Secretary M Mahendran.
More than a thousand members of the RMM council donated blood on 31 December 2018 at a blood donation drive held under the chairmanship of Dharmapuri District Secretary M Mahendran.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @rmmoffice)

The actor was expected to rope in political experts and strategists to guide the cadre and get ready for the 2021 elections. The second-rung leaders in his team were weak, and top state-level office bearers were yet to be appointed.

While booth committees were ready and many were doing the legwork to understand people’s grievances, the team still lacked direction. Many of them are truly disappointed that all their work has been pointless now.

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Spiritual Politics

Rajini unveiled the intention of a party and even announced that he would not align his outfit with any of the Dravidian parties as he planned a new "spiritual" entry into politics.

When a couple of reporters asked him to explain what he meant by ‘spiritual politics’, he said it is the prevalence of dharma and justice.

Rajinikanth is known to be a devout Hindu and so speculations were rife that he will the perfect trump card for the BJP.

People belonging to minority communities were also slightly skeptical and confused about his statements. It is interesting to note that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the actor when he came to Chennai while campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Modi Sympathiser?

Rajinikanth was a guest at the swearing-in ceremony of PM Narendra Modi during his second term.
Rajinikanth was a guest at the swearing-in ceremony of PM Narendra Modi during his second term.
(Photo: The Quint)

Every time PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah or any BJP leaders visit Tamil Nadu, social media is flooded with #GoBack trends.

Acknowledging that there was an anti-Modi wave in Tamil Nadu that led to the rout of the BJP and its alliance partners in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Rajinikanth had told on 26 May 2019 that, except in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, there was a pro-Modi wave.

“In Tamil Nadu, there was an anti-Modi wave. Once there was a wave in electoral politics, those who went with the wave have won,” the actor said.

He opined that issues such as hydrocarbon extraction, NEET, the Opposition's whirlwind campaign, could have gone against the BJP in Tamil Nadu.

 Was There a Rajinikanth Brand of Politics? Here are 10 Hints
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Stood In Support of CAA

In February 2020, Rajinikanth came out in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), asserting that it will not affect Indian Muslims.

“During partition--after it became known that Muslims have to move, Muslims here decided that they should stay back. They held the view: 'This is my country, this is our Janmabhoomi, life or death, this is our soil, and we have to live here.' How can the government send out such people? Should that happen, Rajinikanth will protest," the actor told.

Rajinikanth also stressed that dual citizenship should be given to Sri Lankan Tamils who have found refuge in India. He even praised Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for the way they handled the the proceedings before the abrogation of Article 370 granting special rights to Jammu & Kashmir.

The Partnership That Could Have Happened

Kamal Haasan has told he will ask Rajinikanth to extend support to his party for the 2021 elections.
Kamal Haasan has told he will ask Rajinikanth to extend support to his party for the 2021 elections.
(Photo: News Minute)

Rajini's plan had involved introducing largely unknown good guys into his stillborn politics. But over the last three years, Rajini Makkal Mandram has identified a number of promising youngsters who are willing to work for the welfare of people. Also, considering his reasonably cordial relations with actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, there was room for speculation that Kamal's Makkal Needhi Maiam and Rajini could bring together their respective fan clubs with the idea of ushering in a new kind of politics in increasingly educated Tamil Nadu.

Haasan has signalled he is open to collaborating with Rajini several times. After Rajini’s announcement, he even said he will ask the actor to extend support to MNM.

However, several political analysts believe the two are diametrically opposite - One is popular with the masses, other with a certain class of people; one believes in spiritual politics and the other believes in a system devoid of religion, caste, even the name of it.

This alliance was just a dream, and will always be one, anyway.

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Campaigning Against Corruption: How Rajini Once Caused Jayalalithaa a Crushing Defeat

Rajini has been dropping hints about his political aspirations since the 1990s, and made it official only on 31 December 2017.

In 1996, late AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa after completing her first term as chief minister, faced a lot of criticism following an “ostentatious display of wealth” at her foster son Sudhakaran’s wedding in Chennai. Several allegations against Jayalalithaa of corruption and amassing of wealth were also doing the rounds. Union Minister of State for Commerce P Chidambaram had then led the corruption campaign against Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK government.

This is when came the birth of Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC). TMC and DMK then joined hands, and journalist and political commentator Cho Ramaswamy, who is said to have brought the duo together brought in his friend superstar Rajinikanth to campaign for the alliance.

The actor’s punchline from a campaign speech in 1996, criticism of her politics, coupled with the rising anger against Jayalalithaa’s government, worked impeccably well for the DMK-TMC alliance and is believed by many to have cost the late Puratchi Thalaivi that election.

“Even God can’t save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa returns to power.”
Rajinikanth

The AIADMK faced a 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 Manila Congress alliance.

Twenty years later, at Jayalalithaa’s condolence meet, a glum Rajinikanth even shared how much he regretted making that campaign speech against her. “I had criticised her and hurt her. I was an important reason for her defeat.”

Many political leaders aggressively played the Rajini card while campaigning for the DMK-TMC alliance.

Two decades later, the superstar called the decision to join hands with the DMK a “political accident”.

“About 21 years ago, I was involved in a political accident. It was during the time that I announced my support to a political party. It was the support of my fans and the people of Tamil Nadu who ensured victory for that party. I realise it was a mistake,” he said.

The Crusader

Actor Rajinikanth with DMK supremo Karunanidhi and DMK President MK Stalin. 
Actor Rajinikanth with DMK supremo Karunanidhi and DMK President MK Stalin. 
(Photo: DMK)

In 2004, eight years after he backed the DMK, Rajinikanth pulled off a U-turn and asked his fans to vote for AB Vajpayee and openly said that he had voted for AIADMK-BJP alliance. He said he was supporting them because they had assured him that they would work out a solution on the interlinking of rivers to solve the state’s water crisis.

The DMK-Congress-Left alliance captured all 40 seats, including Puducherry.

Since then, over the next few assembly polls – 2006, 2011 and 2016 – Rajinikanth told his fans that he was not supporting any political party.

So thus ends the Rajinikanth political saga, a journey that never really started but spanned over three decades and has ended. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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