News Brief

Taking Dravidian Parties Head On: Rajinikanth Backs CAA, Sends Clear Signal On His Political Path

Tamil film actor Rajinikanth. 

For the second time in a month, Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth has come out with a statement that signals that he is all set and ready to take on the Dravidian parties, especially the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

On Wednesday (5 February), the actor, who has announced his intention to enter Tamil Nadu politics, came out all guns blazing in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019.

His support for CAA is in stark contrast to the campaign the principal opposition party in Tamil Nadu, DMK, is carrying out. Currently, the DMK is trying to get one crore (10 million) signatures from the people in the state against the CAA.

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Addressing the media in Chennai, Rajinikanth said: “CAA is no threat to Muslims. If they face any problem, I will be the first to raise my voice for them.”

Wondering how Muslims, who had chosen to stay in the country after Partition, would be sent out, he said CAA did not pose any threat to Muslims.

In an indirect reference to the opposition parties, especially the DMK and Congress, Rajinikanth said that some political parties had vested interest in trying to instigate the people against CAA.

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Rajinikanth, who has also backed the National Population Register (NPR) exercise, criticised religious leaders for extending support to the protests against CAA.

In Tamil Nadu, the Muslim clergy and Christian priests, in particular, have been voicing their opposition to CAA despite evidence to the contrary. These leaders have whipped up fears mainly among the minorities in the state.

The actor’s statement on CAA comes on the heels of a statement on 21 January when he refused to apologise for a remark he made on a rally held at Salem in 1971 by Dravida Kazhagam (DK) founder “Periyar” E V Ramasamy.

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Speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of Tamil magazine Tughlak, Rajinikanth recalled that “Periyar” took out the rally in 1971 with Lord Rama and Sita without clothes and wearing garlands of footwear.

The reason why the film star recalled the event was because Tughlak, founded by the late Cho Ramaswamy, was the only news organisation that carried a report on this event.

The DMK government, which was in power in Tamil Nadu then under the late M Karunanidhi, seized the magazine’s copies that had the photo of the rally. Rajinikanth said the magazine’s circulation picked up soon after the seizure of the copy.

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Soon after the statement by Rajinikanth on the 1971 Salem rally of the DK founder, a section, claiming to be Periyar followers, filed complaints with the police against the actor in various parts of the state.

DK general secretary K Veeramani warned that Rajinikanth would “pay the price for such comments”.

The Tamil film superstar’s statement on CAA now and refusing to apologise 16 days ago are firm enough indications that he is set to enter the political arena.

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Reports indicate that the actor is at an advanced stage to make his political entry, though he still has a film on hand to complete.

Rajinikanth has made it clear that he will enter politics, especially ahead of the state assembly elections scheduled in May 2021.

He has also said that he would follow “spiritual” politics, another clear indication of following a path away from the Dravidian movement. He has also spoken out against the culture of corruption, something that has been prevalent during the rule of the Dravidian parties.

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The statements — first refusing to apologise and now supporting CAA — clearly indicate that he would be the biggest hurdle in DMK's aspirations to regain power in Tamil Nadu.

Even though the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is also striving to retain power, it could find the going tough since it would be facing anti-incumbency sentiments.

In 2021, Tamil Nadu would for the first time head to the assembly polls without any major Dravidian leader such as the late J Jayalalithaa or M Karunanidhi.

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The elections will also turn out to be a test of survival for AIADMK and DMK besides others betting big on Dravidian policies. Rajinikanth, by proclaiming he would follow spiritual politics and tackle corruption, is trying to usher in winds of change in Tamil Nadu.

Political analysts point out that Rajinikanth has tapped his fan clubs to reach out to people silently, and has been reportedly carrying out social work to ensure water supply to areas starved of water.

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