Is Rajinikanth As Serious About Politics As He’s About Stardom?

The only certainty is that nothing about Rajinikanth’s politics is certain, writes T M Veeraraghav.

4 min read
Rajinikanth in <i>Kabali.&nbsp;</i>

Over the past few months, it seemed clear that superstar Rajinikanth would not enter the political fray in the 2019 parliamentary elections. Even when he had announced that he would launch a political party, in December 2017, he had carefully declared that his focus was to contest all 234 assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu.

In hindsight, this reflects that he was ambiguous about entering the fray in a parliamentary election. It would have been a complicated situation for him had there been simultaneous polls to the assembly and parliament, but since that is not the case, it was easy for him to stay away from the 2019 polls.

Hence, Rajini’s formal declaration that he will not be a participant to perhaps the most keenly fought parliamentary election in recent times comes as no surprise.

Rajinikanth To Remain ‘Neutral’ This Election

However, he has gone one step further and declared that he will not even back any political formation in this election. In the past, in 2004, Rajinikanth had declared that his “vote” was for the Bharatiya Janata Party and before that, in 1996, he had spoken out openly and strongly against the AIADMK under the late J Jayalalithaa. He had also supported the late Congress leader G K Moopanar, who had launched his own formation in Tamil Nadu in 1998.

Given his declaration that he will not support any political side in 2019, it seems clear that Rajinikanth will stay away from issuing any statements of support and keep a strictly neutral stand in these elections.

This will now make the Tamil Nadu election a clear fight between the BJP-AIADMK alliance and the Congress-DMK alliance, with smaller regional parties taking one side or the other.

Rajinikanth’s decision is both wise and calculated. While he may have shown political leanings towards the BJP, in a strictly political context, there were fears that aligning with the BJP will destroy an independent political entity for the southern superstar. Further, the BJP has been portrayed by the Opposition DMK as destroying Dravidian political values, and hence any proximity to it would have led to Rajinikanth being targeted.

Ambiguity Surrounding Rajini’s Political Ambitions

The political narrative, at least in Tamil Nadu where the DMK has publicly declared Rahul Gandhi as its choice for a prime ministerial candidate, has become polarised into a Rahul vs Modi battle. In this backdrop, Rajinikanth may not have had an independent identity in these elections had he entered the fray, and would have been forced to take a side.

However, the larger question is if Rajinikanth is even serious about a political career. As it has been widely inferred from his statements he had been ambiguous about a political stint for many years, and even though it has been more than a year since he announced his political entry, he is yet to even name or register a political party.

His announcement to enter political was also made after his competitor in Tamil cinema, actor Kamal Haasan, announced a political entry.

Rajini’s Political ‘Seriousness’ Will Be Tested During A State Assembly Poll

So, it is not clear if his entry was just a reaction to the political situation in the state in the absence of a serious or thought-out ambition. In fact, in the climax of his last super hit ‘Petta’, Rajinikanth dances to an old song ‘Raman aandallum Raavanan aandalum enakku oru kavalai ille’ (It does not matter to me if Ram rules or Raavan rules). While none of Rajinikanth’s movie dialogues translate into real life politics – he has often said one thing in his movies and done entirely another in real life – one wonders if this was an indication that he is not keen to take a serious political stand.

This will be tested whenever there is an assembly election in the state. While it is scheduled for 2022, the results of the 2019 elections may determine whether it will take place then, or if there will be a mid-term poll in the state.

Rajinikanth Yet to Prove Political Seriousness

If the AIADMK-BJP alliance makes a mark, and the BJP returns to power in New Delhi, then the dispensation in Tamil Nadu may hold out till 2019. But, on the other hand, if the DMK-Congress combine sweeps the state and a Congress-led formation comes to power at the Center, then the present dispensation may fall in a matter of months.

Rajinikanth, the superstar, will be watching every political development closely, and decide on delivering his promised political entry. The only certainty is that nothing about Rajinikanth’s politics is certain, and he is yet to prove that he is serious about a political entry.

He has announced it, but has not followed it up. His recent successes at the box office shows – he has had three major releases in the last year – that the only thing that’s certain about him is that he will always be a superstar at the box office!

(The writer is an independent journalist. He can be reached @TMVRaghav .This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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