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Last Updated Wednesday July 08 2020 06:32 AM IST

Reel charm in realpolitik: will the Rajini magic work?

Sachidananda Murthy
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Rajini Basha Rajini's debut is more like N T Rama Rao's spectacular foray into Andhra politics by launching his Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

Rajinikanth's entry into politics 21 years after he made a clarion call to oust Jayalalithaa from power has found political resonance across the nation.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is delighted at the prospect of the emergence of a religious and 'non-Dravidian' force in Tamil Nadu.

Along with Puducherry, Tamil Nadu sends 40 members to the Lok Sabha.

The Congress, which was trounced when it partnered with Jaya's All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in 1996 mainly due to Rajini's statement, has cautiously welcomed the star's political foray.

Unlike M G Ramachandran (MGR) and Jaya, who were in active politics before nosediving into the labyrinth of power, Rajini is making a direct swoop.

Rajini's debut is more like N T Rama Rao's spectacular foray into Andhra politics by launching his Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

At an infant nine months, TDP had swept into power in an undivided Andhra Pradesh, riding on the wave of 'Telugu pride' displacing a dominant Congress.

Unlike MGR, who was the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) treasurer for a long period before he formed the AIADMK, and Jaya, who inherited a faction of AIADMK after MGR's death, Rajini has no party machinery to fall back on.

Both MGR and Jaya depended on the DMK legacy under Anna as well as their own star value to keep the DMK out of power for long.

But Rajini will have to depend on his own superstar brand as he takes on the large crop of DMK and AIADK leaders, who lack only the star appeal.

But the DMK under M K Stalin is a cadre party which has bounced back despite being repeatedly buffeted by the overriding star-power of both, MGR and Jayalalithaa, while the faction-ridden AIADMK is solely banking on the late Jaya's charisma to sail through.

Like Vijayakanth, who asked his fan clubs to become the nucleus of his party Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Rajini has urged his fans associations to prepare the ground for his political launch at the grassroots level.

When Rajini formally announces his party's name, the superstar's fans associations will undergo a political metamorphosis into the district, city and village units.

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has openly voiced his skepticism on the political entry and its lack of connect with the grassroots, implying a zero impact on TN politics.

This is in sharp contrast with the exuberance of Rajini's followers, who feel the superstar will challenge and even demolish the hegemony of the Dravidian politics, which has dominated the political discourse in Tamil Nadu for more than half a century.

N T Rama Rao and Vijayakanth could galvanize support from established politicians to form and run their party units.

Chandrababu Naidu and the leaders of the erstwhile Janata Party were a huge boost for NTR while the former Tamil Nadu minister Panruti Ramachandran was the political brain of DMDK in its formative years.

Rajini has entered TN politics at a time when a star power vacuum has hit the state hard, with none to look up to, neither in the DMK nor in the AIADMK.

He has mooted an idealistic campaign, focusing on corruption and political anarchy as his 'themes' stressing 'nobody will be targeted but corruption will be attacked'.

His foray could also be boosted or marred by the box-office reception accorded to two of his upcoming films, including the Rs.400-crore sequel to his highly popular Robot.

The strife within the ruling AIADMK, which has intensified after the victory of T T V Dhinakaran in the R K Nagar assembly byelection, would also impact public perception.

Meanwhile the BJP, which needs the backing of 50 AIADMK MPs in both Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, would stay careful about identifying closely with Rajini, as he would need the space to build a party without being accused of collusion with the 'predominantly north Indian, Hindi-imposing outfit.

But this also gives the Sangh Parivar an opportunity to stoke the spiritual and religious sensibilities in the state where even the DMK, with its proclaimed atheistic disposition, has accepted the religious beliefs of the population.

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