Chennai: As Tamil Nadu grapples with cyclones — first it was ‘Nivar’ that was followed by ‘Burevi’ — superstar Rajinikanth, also known as ‘Thalaiva’ (leader), has created a political storm by announcing that he will launch his party.
“There will be change in governance and politics. If the change does not happen now, it will never happen. It is time to rewrite the fate Tamil Nadu,” Rajinikanth said while announcing the decision to launch a political party.
Rajini met the media to inform about his decision along with the party's in-charge Tamilaruvi Manian and chief co-ordinator Arjuna Murthy. Arjuna Murthy was the head of the BJP’s state intellectual section and has an RSS background, while Tamilruvi Maniyan was with the Congress.
Rajinikanth's announcement on launching the party came three years after he made known his intention to enter politics. The Assembly elections in the state are scheduled to be held in April-May.
Rajini Makkal Mandram
Rajini's has promised MGR kind of rule in the state. His entry into politics was also similar to that of the late actor and former chief minister. MGR built AnnaDMK by transforming his fan base into political units. After announcing his political entry three years ago, Rajni’s community of fans was made into Rajini Makkal Mandram, ('mandram' meaning 'forum'). It currently has 1 lakh units. Rajinikanth has planned his political entry by ensuring that his support base is secure.
20–25% of votes guaranteed
The election battle in Tamil Nadu is now being seen as between the DMK and its rivals. The AIADMK took its root in the state by portraying itself as a force that can defeat the DMK. The DMK, which has a strong organisational structure, has a secure vote base of 30-35 per cent.
So when Rajini targets the anti-DMK vote with his slogan of spiritual politics, the party that could take the hit is the AIADMK. According to a private survey done by the Makkal Mandram, Rajini can get 20-25% of the vote on his own. And if an impression can be created that he will usher in winds of change, then this can be as high as 40 per cent, the survey estimates.
• A leader with personal charisma in Tamil Nadu after the deaths of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi.
• Just like MGR, stardom among the masses. Equally popular in both urban and rural areas.
• Also just like Karunanidhi, MGR and Jayalalithaa, he comes from outside the dominant castes in the state. He is, therefore, acceptable to all castes.
• In a situation where the AIADMK is weak, he will be able to attract the anti-DMK votes.
• There are 1.5 crore more women voters than men in Tamil Nadu. His cinematic image will help him win the support of women voters, just like MGR and Jayalalithaa were able to.
• Kannada-Maratha family roots.
• His politics, which seems to be aligned with the central government and the BJP. The allegations that he is a secret agent of the BJP.
• Discomfort with criticism.
• Just like MGR, he, too, doesn’t have a political background. Also, there are no experienced leaders with him.
• Only 3-4 months left for campaigning for the elections.
Possibility of political fronts in Tamil Nadu
The Rajini-BJP equation
It has long been alleged that pressure from the BJP was behind Rajini's entry into politics. Some read his claim of spiritual politics to be linked to the BJP. The BJP was the first party to welcome his announcement of party formation. Currently, the BJP is an ally of the AIADMK.
Deputy Chief Minister and AIADMK co-ordinator O Panneerselvam has already said that his party was ready to ally with Rajini. The possibility of an AIADMK-BJP-Rajini alliance cannot be ruled out.
Rajini vs Kamal
The super pair that had ruled the silver screen for long are now at the opposite poles in politics. Kamal's idea of politics hinges on Dravidian succession. However, he has made it clear that he is ready to join hands with Rajini to work towards common goals. The party has said it will ally with only those who are ready to accept Kamal as the chief minister. Rajini has said that he will not be the chief minister.
Although many say that their elder-younger brother tie that was seen on screen will not get repeated in politics, the possibility cannot be dismissed.
A third front headed by Rajini is also a possibility. For parties like the PMK and the DMDK which have their own vote bank, their political ideals will not be an obstacle to joining hands with Rajini. If he does not form an alliance with the BJP, then a broad front of smaller parties could take shape under Rajini.