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Will Tamil Cinema Superstar Rajnikanth Become Chief Minister of India’s Tamil Nadu State?

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Is Tamil superstar Rajinikanth toying with the idea of entering politics to fill the vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics caused by actress-turned-politician Jayaram Jayalalithaa’s death six months ago?

Last Sunday (May 14), Rajinikanth met his fans after a gap of eight years. The biggest Tamil movie star since M G Ramachandran (MGR), the 66-year-old also utilised the event to speak about his entry into politics.

This is a subject that has been constantly discussed in the southern Indian state since 1996, when he extended his support to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) alliance. The combined promptly swept the assembly elections and dislodged Jayaram Jayalalithaa as chief minister.

Rajinikanth’s recent meeting with his fans, organised through the actor’s rasigar mandrams (fan clubs), promises to be an ongoing one, with more being scheduled in the next few days. This has predictably led to speculation that the ageing superstar may actually be thinking of plunging into politics in the near future.

Tamil politics has been dominated by film actors and scriptwriters for the past half a century. After the Dravidian movement ousted the Congress Party from power in 1967 seemingly forever, two popular film stars and a Tamil film scriptwriter together ruled the state for a total of 46 years!

Kandy-born Malayalee-speaking Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran, popularly known as MG Ramachandran or MGR, formed the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in 1972, and ruled the star-struck southern Indian state for a decade till he died (1977-87).

His protégé and favourite heroine Jayaram Jayalalithaa reigned over the state for 14 years between 1991 and 2016. She became the chief minister five times but could complete a five-year term just once, and was either sacked, ousted or jailed for corruption on four occasions.

Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the supremo of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), too has been the southern Indian state’s chief minister for as many as five times and ruled the state for 20 years during a 40-year span (1969-2011). He too was sacked twice for corruption. Now a ripe 92, he is hoping to don the mantle for a sixth time if and when state assembly polls are held next.

Karunanidhi too is a creation of the Tamil cinema. He has strong links with the Tamil film industry and came to power primarily because of his links with the film industry. He made a name for himself as a writer of scripts for Tamil films. He came to public notice for the first time in 1952 after the astounding success of Parasakti, which also made Sivaji Ganesan and SS Rajendran superstars. He went on to write scripts for as many as 39 films to date.

After Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5 last year, a power struggle is now raging in her AIADMK between people who are essentially non-entities. In the DMK, there is a power struggle going on between two of Karunanidhi’s sons and daughter.

This is why there is some expectation that another filmstar may take the plunge into politics. And many are looking up to Rajinikanth to fill up this vacuum. A Maharashtrian by birth and a one-time bus conductor in Bengaluru, What he said to his fans last Sunday is pregnant with political undertones.

He began: ‘They say Rajni doesn’t take a firm stand, keeps changing his mind, hesitates, is afraid, these are all said of me, written about me.

“Before I say something, I think a lot, as much as I can. After that only I take a decision. Sometimes, it is only after deciding that some problems may arise, and one needs to think some more. Like, when we step into water. After stepping in we come to know that there are a lot of crocodiles in the water. Can you say that since you have taken a step forward, you will not go back?”

“You have to go back, and not be foolhardy (murattu dairiyam in Tamil). Those who talk will keep talking.”

He said another thing that is said about him is: “Rajni only talks when one of his films is releasing, makes some comments, does some stunts—all this to make his film run. Thanks to your blessings and your love, I don’t have to resort to such stuff. My fans, and the Tamil people, won’t be fooled by such things.”

Rajini went on: “Only when the grain is cooked does it become rice. Only when a film is good does it become a hit. Even if you do somersaults this cannot change. It is because my directors and producers have given me good stories, great scripts, songs, given me good roles, made good films that I am standing here before you.”

Another thing people say is about politics, “that Rajni hesitates, he won’t say anything, but to make his fans see his films shows them political maya”, the actor pointed out.

He recalled that, some 21 years ago, there was a political accident at that time. “Because of some circumstances, I had to show my support to a political alliance. Because of that, my Tamil people, who are my life, supported the political alliance and gave them an electoral victory. Since then my name has been associated with politics, and some of my fans too got involved deeply in politics.”

”They used some politicians, and in turn they, some of them, were used by some politicians. ‘A lot of money was also seen. They got a taste of this. Since then, every time an election came up, those people would seek these people out, and these people would seek them out too. They come and tell you that I am supporting them. Because of this, every time I had to clarify that I am not supporting anyone.”

Rajinikanth told his fans: “It is not as if I am a great political leader, or a social activist, or someone for whose support everyone is waiting! That is not the case. I am not supporting anyone, and if anyone seeks votes claiming to have my support, please don’t vote for them.”

Some fans write to him that they have been left behind while others have gone ahead, own vehicles etc. They ask him: “Why can’t we become MLAs and ministers, and earn money?”

There’s nothing wrong in aspiring to become a municipal councillor, MLA or minister. “But to see it as a path to earn money… I don’t know whether to laugh at it, get angry, or feel sad. I don’t know! I said it then, I am saying it now. My life is subservient to god. I have to maintain this body clean, healthy, have a pure heart.

He then declared: “I am a tool in the hands of God. Now, he is using me as an actor, so I acting as an actor. Tomorrow, in whatever way he uses me… However he uses me, I am doing it justly, honestly, truly, conscientiously. Today I am fulfilling my responsibility as an actor, entertaining people. Earning money is secondary.

“Similarly, whatever responsibility I am given, I will fulfil it honestly, truly, justly. I don’t know what it may be. It is in the hands of God. Everything is done by Him. That is the basis of spirituality.”

The actor added: “Even when you are doing something wrong, your conscience warns you against it. Just like when you are lying. So far as my life is concerned, everything is in the hands of God.

“And for people who may have those kinds of desires, I wish to say this now: If the circumstances warrant me to enter politics, I won’t allow such people to come anywhere near me, not even allow them an entry!

In a message meant for those who are hoping to join his bandwagon and exploit his name to make money, he had this warning: “So you may leave right now, or else you will be disappointed!”

Courtesy: The Island

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