Rajinikanth’s Pro-BJP, Anti-Hindutva Image is His Political Hiccup

It’s probably best for Rajinikanth to join politics post 2019, as this has become a ‘Modi vs The Rest’ battle.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
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Rajinikanth’s personal political inclinations are towards the Bharatiya Janata Party. This is not a new revelation or something that needs to be deciphered from his cryptic comments over the last few days. This has been clear since 2004 when he revealed his endorsement for the BJP-AIADMK alliance in the state.

At that time, he did not campaign or seek votes for the alliance, but merely stated that he would vote for the BJP. As it turned out, in the 2004 elections, the AIADMK-BJP combine was routed in Tamil Nadu and could not win even a single parliamentary seat.

Not Yet a Politician

In fact, the BJP shifted over from the DMK to the AIDMK on the eve of those elections and that decision, party insiders would admit, cost it 40 parliamentary seats. Certainly, things have changed over the last 14 years. But where does Rajinikanth stand now and even if that is clear does it matter?

Firstly, Rajinikanth still remains the reclusive star that he was, and the metamorphosis into a politician seems very uncertain. Almost a year after the South superstar announced that he will enter politics, he is yet to launch his political party. So, true to Rajinikanth’s own admission, he is not yet a politician.

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The road ahead seems hazy and it is not clear if Rajinikanth will even evolve into a full-fledged politician before the 2019 elections.

This is important because as the 2004 precedent shows that just statements of support from Rajinikanth does not have electoral impact. He needs to be a full time politician first, before hoping to make an impact.

How Will Rajinikanth Reconcile Role in ‘Kaala’ With His Support for BJP?

Second, while Rajinikanth’s recent comments, inferring that the BJP is “strong” because it is facing all other parties alone, may reiterate his inclination towards the BJP and Narendra Modi, it is also true that his last film Kaala (2018) portrayed him as a character taking on a Hindutva politician promising economic growth.

In fact, the antagonist in the film was a character who bore a likeness to the PM’s persona. The film did raise fresh questions over whether Rajini was making an effort to shed an image of being close to the BJP and reiterating that he is not a Hindutva mascot.

How does one reconcile the film with his comments? Is he confused, or is he playing all sides and keeping his options open? A careful examination of the political realities in Tamil Nadu may reveal why it may be easier said than done for Rajinikanth to partner a BJP alliance.

BJP’s Hopes to Piggy Back on Anti-DMK Alliance

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has stitched up a powerful alliance with the Congress, left parties, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazagam(MDMK), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and Indian Union Muslim League(IUML).

The DMK has already portrayed the elections as a battle between Dravidian political philosophy, championed by it, and Hindutva as a divisive force. Now, the BJP’s hope seems to be to piggy back in the southern state, where it has negligible presence, on an alliance bringing together AIADMK factions, and parties like the PMK which have been left out by the DMK.

It hopes Rajinikanth as a political entity would be part of such an alliance and perhaps lead it as the mascot, behind whom these parties can unite. But the reality is not that simple.

Rajinikanth May Not Get Both AIADMK & PMK As Allies

Firstly, the ruling AIADMK faction is in total disarray and is held together only because it was in power when Late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa passed away. It seems to have little credibility in the state, and Rajinikanth himself has questioned it on issues like the controversy around fellow actor Vijay’s blockbuster film Sarkaar.

Allying with such a dispensation will dent Rajinikanth’s credibility. It must be recalled here that, in his speech announcing a political entry, Rajinikanth had said his party would contest in all 234 assembly constituencies in the state. This cannot be different in a parliamentary election, and if he does get his party in place, the expectation will be that it will contest in all seats.

This apart, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) has had serious differences with Rajinikanth in the past. This dates back to 2004 when PMK workers even attacked Rajinikanth fans and issued public statements against him. Even as recently as 2017, PMK leader Anbumani Ramadass had said Rajni should not aim to rule the state as there were “more efficient” leaders to do so.

So, it may be difficult for Rajni to ally with both the AIADMK and PMK.

Can Rajini Pull Off a ‘Filmy Act’ in Real Life?

Given that the Opposition has arithmetic in its favour, an alliance between Rajini and the BJP alone may be a non- starter, and it will further brand Rajinikanth as the ‘Hindutva face’ in Tamil Nadu.

It needs to be understood that while the South superstar may show a personal preference for the BJP, he does not see himself as an ideological mascot for Hindutva. This is perhaps what he has conveyed through ‘Kaala’, and in other earlier instances as well.

He may be a spiritualist and Hindu, but does not want to be branded communal or against Dravidian principles. Such a branding would alienate Rajinikanth from the masses in the state. So, there are conflicting priorities at play here. Rajinikanth is unpredictable, and often retreats into silence when there is too much controversy around him. Thus, the possibility that he may want to stay away from the parliamentary elections and pick up the pieces later, in an assembly election, is a strong one.

In fact, this may not be the best election for Rajinikanth to enter politics as this has become a Narendra Modi versus The Rest battle, and there seems to be little space, even for the superstar, to feature as the main lead.

Having said that, to quote one of the most famous Rajinikanth film dialogues, “I will never tell you how or what I will do. You will know only when I do it”. Can he pull off such an act in real life politics ahead of 2019? Seems unlikely, but only Rajinikanth knows his script!

(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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