A Rajinikanth fan performs aarti in front of his movie hoarding in Mumbai. (Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via GettyImages) 
Snapshot
  • With the Dravidian parties weakened, Rajnikanth couldn’t have chosen a better moment to enter politics.

    Has he brought in the Kejriwal moment to Tamil Nadu?

Tamil film superstar Rajnikanth on Sunday (31 December) announced that he will enter politics, ensuring that Tamil Nadu will wake up to 2018 with its politics redefined. Rajnikanth announced that his party would be formed ahead of the assembly elections and would contest all the 234 seats. Before that, his fans associations will begin process to ensure that they will be present in every street of the state. The announcement has drawn reactions on expected lines, with those aligned to the Dravidian politics criticising him bitterly. There is no doubt that 31 December 2017 will go down in Tamil Nadu as the day when Dravidian politics took its first step towards the inevitable decline. Rajnikanth says his political entry is a “necessity of times”, which in a nutshell is the truth.

That Dravidian supporters have begun to spit fire the moment he announced his decision is a firm indication that they dread their survival has been threatened. This in itself is a victory for Rajnikanth, nay Tamil Nadu. The frenzy of his fans and the public, including on the social media, is a pointer that politics in Tamil Nadu is set for a makeover, at least in the short term. Some even termed that real Diwali is today, while others said Pongal has come early to Tamil Nadu! Critics point fingers at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying it had forced or persuaded Rajnikanth to enter politics. To those who had their ears turned to the right direction, Rajnikanth’s entry into politics was not wholly unanticipated. He has justified his decision saying that events in the last year were shameful and people from other states have begun laughing at Tamil Nadu. There are more reasons for Rajnikanth to enter politics now, which has been going through a rough period for nearly a decade now.

What Forced Rajnikanth To Enter Politics

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Look at what has been happening in Tamil Nadu over the last few years. Investors and industrialists have been complaining that Tamil Nadu isn’t anymore the state to bet on. The state is enriched with great infrastructure, skilled manpower and committed people. All these advantages have been lost in the last few years to corruption, that has been rampant. Privately, even partymen tell you that there is a “cut” (at least 12 per cent) in every project that is taken up in the state. Those running business lament that nothing has been moving in the state after the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was re-elected in May 2016. Actually, Tamil Nadu went into a coma even before, during the party’s rule during 2011-16, when the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa fell ill. Even the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) rule during 2006-2011 hasn’t been a pleasant one for the people with allegations of corruption and illegal occupation of lands being made.

Rajnikanth has probably been forced into politics after the by-elections to the R K Nagar Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu. That is what we have to conclude, given the timing of his statement that he would announce his plans on 31 December. It was after the election results that he said he would begin to meet his fans again to take a decision. The suspicion is that he had decided fairly long ago to enter politics but perhaps reviewed it during the last few days before he decided to jump head on. The by-elections to R K Nagar can only be termed a sham with the voters themselves demanding cash for votes. The Election Commission had become helpless and voters thought they are entitled to seek payment for their votes in view of the corruption that politicians have been indulging in all these years.

Facts Speak For Themselves

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The 50-year Dravidian rule has left Tamil Nadu helpless in the face of rampant corruption. Nothing moves in the state without a “cut”. Over the last few months, search operations by the Income Tax Department have revealed how corruption has gained roots in the state. Natham R Viswanathan, businessman Anbunathan, Sekhar Reddy, Health Minister C Vijay Bhaskar, Sasikala family and a few others have hogged headlines after their premises and business establishments were raided by Income Tax officials. Evidences unearthed during the search operations are just the tip of the corruption iceberg in Tamil Nadu. Many more ministers and officials are under cloud but action has not been forthcoming.

The current spate of developments since 5 December 2016, when Jayalalithaa breathed her last, has left a vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics. An ailing DMK president M Karunanidhi has also complicated matters. The AIADMK has broken into two factions and despite T T V Dinakaran winning the R K Nagar elections, prospects for the party as a whole, are bleak. The R K Nagar elections have left the people of the state desperate for a change. Though the Dravidian movement is based on atheism, today the movement has descended to levels where its politicians visit temples. Besides corruption, the Dravidian movement has led to casteism rearing its ugly head – the DMK and AIADMK pick their candidates for the elections based on their capacity to spend and on caste.

Why Has He Chosen This Moment?

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Rajnikanth has been under tremendous pressure to enter politics in view of the political vacuum in Tamil Nadu, where no politician seems to be commanding overall support in the state. Tamil Nadu is yet to see someone who can command loyalty like Jayalalithaa after her demise. Even Karunanidhi’s popularity is limited, given the fact that women are biased against him.

For Rajnikanth, this is a moment that he will never get again. He said he had an offer to join politics in 1996 but he did not avail of that opportunity. True, maybe, he has lost a generation’s support but he is obliged now as never before for two reasons. One, his fans. Rajnikanth said that everytime he had fallen ill he had come back stronger, thanks to prayers of his fans. If that’s true, then this is his moment to answer the call of each and every fan, who have been praying that he take a decision to join politics soon. Second, Rajnikanth has said that he owes everything in his life to the people of Tamil Nadu, who had accepted him as one of their own. This is his chance to give back to the people of Tamil Nadu when they need him the most. Tamil Nadu didn’t need him as badly as now, not even in 1996!

Critics have already upped their ante, questioning why he has been keeping quiet all these days. Isn’t it better late than never? Second, Rajnikanth can hope for a better response from the people now. Not just that, dejected AIADMK and DMK cadres will now flock to his movement and party. Rampant corruption that has been prevailing in Tamil Nadu over the last many years will only help his cause.

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Rajnikanth has probably brought in the Arvind Kejriwal moment for Tamil Nadu, promising corruption-free government. Maybe, even the self-pride moment that was witnessed in Andhra Pradesh in 1983 through another filmstar N T Rama Rao. This could also be the moment that BJP had been looking for since Rajnikanth has been candid in his views on the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rajnikanth said his party would contest all 234 seats in the Assembly elections but he has conveniently skipped any mention of Parliament elections due in 2019. This has two angles. One, elections to Tamil Nadu could be held this year with the Edappadi K Palanswami government survival under question. Second, the superstar could support the BJP in the elections to the Lok Sabha. But it is likely that the assembly elections could be held along with polls to Parliament. There is one caution though. At 68, Rajnikanth’s health problems could be a source of worry, if not now then later. Unfortunately, Tamil Nadu has to look up to its filmstars yet again!

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