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Rajinikanth's decision to enter politics is a sagacious move, but Tamil superstar must avoid impulsive vows

En vazhi thani vazhi (my path is always unique). Thus spoke Rajinikanth, the teenage, middle-age and old-age heartthrob of the Tamil Nadu in a Tamil film some two decades ago which is still doing the rounds both in the cacophonic world of Tamil politics as well as by way of parody in every other walk of life.

Rajinikanth has been keeping everybody in suspense in perpetuity ever since he hit stardom more than four decades ago. Millions of his fans have been on tenterhooks, hanging to his lips.  But the inscrutable star all these years did not give a clue about his political roadmap beyond the vague one-liners such as the one above and 'nan eppo varunumo correct ta vandhiduvehn' (I would arrive on the scene at the appropriate time).

File image of Rajnikanth. PTI

File image of Rajnikanth. PTI

At last, he has arrived on the Tamil Nadu political firmament on 31 December, 2017, as the sun sets (pun intended) on the old year and wring in the year 2018. The rising sun has been the enduring and evocative party symbol of the DMK. One wonders if Rajnikant’s entry would mark the sunset of this party as well. Be that as it may.

It is a sagacious political move. That he has not joined any political party including BJP, for which he has had an enormous liking, is significant. He knows the caste calculus of the state — only 3 percent forward caste. He knows BJP is not a winner in Tamil Nadu though it is on ascendance everywhere else.

Tamil Nadu has remained a pipe dream for BJP because of the deep-rooted Dravidian culture the state is inured to. This vice-like grip of the Dravidian culture could not be prised open even by the vacuum left by the late J Jayalalithaa (her name is sometimes spelled as Jayalalitha) when the party (BJP) strategists thought the AIADMK was vulnerable for takeover now that she was not in the scene.

A sizeable sliver of the AIADMK founded by the late MGR includes believers, the target vote bank of BJP, unlike non-believers who are at the base of DMK. BJP thought it would woo the believers among the AIADMK rank and file but it miserably failed.

Rajnikanth has always been its hope because Tamilians by and large are also inured to their cinema. Indeed, Tamil Nadu has always remained under the thrall of film stars and has been eating out of their hands (pun again intended). BJP thought Rajnikant could be the lever to prise open the state. But he has proved he is not only not pliable but also extremely sensible — had he cast his lot with BJP, he would have been dwarfed by it in his fiefdom. And more than that he would be looked down upon as a Brahmin stooge given the BJP’s image as a brahminical party.

Now, Rajinikanth can confidently say that he has emerged as the alternative political force in the state. For the last half century, Tamil Nadu oscillated between DMK and AIADMK, a breakaway formation of the former. The people now really have a third choice. And the third choice indeed is another regional party. Too many regional parties have been the bane of some state-confined parties like Shiv Sena, NCP, TRS (before Telangana emerged) and TDP (before a truncated Andhra emerged).  But in Tamil Nadu, Rajini’s party would be the latest kid in the block which people would like to try out for its refreshingly novel values and promises if not for anything else.

He has said rather rashly that his party would quit if it does not fulfill its poll promises within three years of assuming of office. That is a dangerous promise to make like Lord Krishna told Arjuna — too many impulsive vows taken have been the bane of Pandavas.  Levity aside, he might have thought this one single promise would endear him into the hearts of the electorate like nothing else has in the past. For BJP, there is a silver lining in his move rather than disappointment — when it comes to the crunch he can be counted as a reliable ally giving outside support!

Updated Date: Dec 31, 2017 12:42 PM

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