After nearly two-decade suspense over Rajinikanth's political ambitions, the Tamil superstar on Sunday announced his entry into electoral politics. He said that he will be launching his own party prior to the Assembly elections and contest all 234 seats in the state.
Rajinikanth's announcement comes amid political uncertainty in the state of Tamil Nadu after former chief minister J Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016. However, the Tamil matinee idol's announcement will most likely be watched by BJP, which is trying to make a political mark in the state dominated by the ruling AIADMK and opposition DMK.
Welcoming Rajinikanth's entry into politics, BJP state president Tamilisai Sounderrarajan tweeted:
Welcome actor Rajinikanths political entry with motto of corruption free good governance which is the sole aim of BJP
— Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan (@DrTamilisaiBJP) December 31, 2017
The Indian Express also quoted her as saying that Rajinikanth will support BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Speaking to Times Now, BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao, however, adopted a more "wait and watch" stance towards the actor. "We will have to wait and watch how things take shape. There has been a vacuum since the demise of Jayalalitha and even BJP has been looking to expand its footprint in Tamil Nadu."
BJP-Rajinikanth bonhomie is not new It is to be noted that BJP and Rajinikanth's connection goes a long way. Just before Tamil Nadu voted in the Lok Sabha election, Narendra Modi had met Rajinikanth at his residence. But the meeting was considered only a "courtesy call".
Two months after Jayalalithaa passed away in December 2016, Soundararajan had said that the list of those joining the party was "growing". Back then, terming BJP as the "last hope for the nation's growth and to provide a corruption-free administration", Soundarajan had claimed that "several anti-corruption crusaders, philanthropists, and neutral public figures were joining the party."
That BJP was interested in Rajinikanth's entry into Tamil Nadu politics can be gauged by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari's statement. In an interview in May 2017, he had told News18, "He is welcome in politics and it is my request to him to think about BJP. There is an appropriate place for him in the BJP."
In June 2017, S Gurumurthy, the RSS ideologue too hinted that Rajinikanth may join politics and backed the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Speaking to The Times of India, Gurumurthy had said that Rajinikanth can be the next MGR of Tamil Nadu politics.
MG Ramachandran, or MGR as he was popularly known, was also a matinee idol-turned-politician, who formed the AIADMK to rule the state between 1977 and 1987.
"If Rajinikanth comes and if he has proper guidance, if he uses proper language, if he puts up a proper agenda, he may be able to make a huge difference to Tamil Nadu politics. The youth, particularly, are not getting attracted to either AIADMK or DMK. He may be able to attract the youth, particularly the educated, who are keeping out of politics," Gurumurthy said while projecting Rajinikanth as an alternative to the two established Dravidian parties.
There is a major reason why BJP has been much more inclined towards Rajinikanth than any other actor. As noted by political analyst TS Sudhir: "For the BJP, Rajinikanth is the only winnable choice. Kamal Haasan could have been an option but he is seen as too much of a 'straight shooter' in BJP circles. Haasan has a mind of his own and is an atheist, and both won't work for BJP. Another star Vijay whose popularity is second only to Rajinikanth and Haasan and is known to have a political interest was also considered."
But despite that, there are some leaders in BJP who are against Rajinikanth such as BJP's Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, a known critic. Immediately after Rajinikanth announced his decision to join electoral politics, Swamy called Rajinikanth a "media hype" and threatened to expose him whenever he forms his party.
He only announced he is entering politics, had no details or documents, he is illiterate. Its only media hype, people of Tamil Nadu are intelligent: Subramanian Swamy, BJP on #Rajinikanth pic.twitter.com/4dDZWLGxdd — ANI (@ANI) December 31, 2017
— ANI (@ANI) December 31, 2017
This is not the first time that Swamy targetted Rajinikanth. In June 2017, Swamy alleged that the actor had committed financial fraud and urged him to not enter politics. Swamy had told India Today news channel that he had "substantial proof" of financial irregularities that would 'knock down' Rajinikanth's political ambitions.
Meanwhile, the AIADMK chose to play it safe and welcomed Rajinikanth into politics. "I don't want to pre-empt Rajinikanth's move but we do greet him into politics," AIADMK spokesperson Apsara Reddy told CNN-News18.
On the other hand, DMK working president MK Stalin and sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran also welcomed Rajinikanth's decision to take the plunge into politics, reported News18.
"I congratulate and welcome superstar Rajinikanth's entry into politics," said Stalin, while newly-elected MLA Dhinakaran said, "I am very happy to see him entering politics. I welcome the superstar."
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Dec 31, 2017 14:08 PM