Will contest next TN Assembly polls, announces Rajinikanth

The Asian Age.  | E T B Sivapriyan

India, Politics

Tamil Nadu has been politically unstable since the death last year of chief minister and AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa, also a former film star.

Rajinikanth waves to his fans in Chennai. (Photo: Asian Age)

Chennai: Ending decades of suspense, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth announced on Sunday that he would float a political party of his own and contest from all 234 constituencies in the next Assembly elections to “redeem” the image of Tamil Nadu which has been “sullied” in the past one year.

Though he didn’t say what his political party would be called, the superstar did insist that his entry into politics was born out of his sense of “duty to change the system” in Tamil Nadu.

“My plunge into politics is certain and I am being compelled by time to take a plunge. I will launch my own political party in the next Assembly elections and contest all 234 constituencies in Tamil Nadu… If I don’t take the political call now, the guilt of not doing good to the people who gave me life would haunt me till my death,” Rajinikanth declared, sending his fans into a rapturous frenzy.

“I am not entering politics for post or position. If I had wanted it, I would have got it in 1996 itself. If at the age of 45 I had not aspired for that, why would I do it at the age of 68?” Rajinikanth said, and added, “My politics will be based on spirituality, not on religion or caste. The whole thing has to change. The system has to change. Democracy has been corrupted. It needs to be cleansed.”

Tamil Nadu has been politically unstable since the death last year of chief minister and AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa, also a former film star.

Rajinikath, a Marathi raised in Bengaluru who made Tamil Nadu his home after a flourishing film career that has lasted for 42 years, spoke with clarity before his fans on Sunday morning, outlining his action plan. His new political party, he said, will not contest local body polls due to paucity of time. It will, instead, concentrate on the next Assembly polls due in 2021. As far as Lok Sabha polls are concerned, a decision will be taken at the “right time”, he said.

“This is not a film. This is politics. We have to spread ourselves to every street in the street,” the actor said. The 67-year-old, who works mostly in Tamil cinema, has a huge following in the country and is one of Asia’s highest paid actors.

His announcement ended 21 years of “will he, won’t he” suspense that was carefully choreographed by the actor and his team ever since he endorsed the DMK-TMC alliance in 1996 and spoke against the then chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. Sounding quite serious about his political entry, Rajinikanth said, “We will resign within three years if we cannot fulfil our promises.”

Borrowing a few phrases from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the superstar said he needs protectors (chowkidars or watchmen) to guard the state from corrupt elements and accused the political parties of plundering their own people.

He also coined a new term on what his politics would be like – “spiritual politics” that transcends all religion and caste. Political circles quickly interpreted it as a clear indication that he was leaning towards the BJP. During his speech, he also made a veiled attack on the AIADMK and asked his fans and supporters to be on “silent mode” till his political party is launched.

Rajinikanth’s entry into politics is perfectly timed as the actor plans to take advantage of the “political vacuum” caused due to Jayalalithaa’s death and confinement of DMK chief M. Karunanidhi to his house. But the fact that there are too many claimants to fill the vacuum could create trouble for Rajinikanth, as his long-time comrade in tinsel town, Kamal Hassan, is also in the fray seeking a piece of the political pie.

“Rajinikanth has a lot of challenges to face in his political journey. But he has a mass following and that could be turned into a potent force through political manoeuvring. I see a four-cornered contest in the next assembly elections — two AIADMK factions (EPS-OPS and TTV), DMK and Rajinikanth. If Kamal Haasan joins, it will be a five-cornered contest,” political analyst Ravindran Duraisamy told The Asian Age.

The actor also gave hints on what could be he his political agenda. Launching a stinging but indirect attack on the present AIADMK dispensation, he said, “Political events (in Tamil Nadu) for the past one year have made everyone hang their head in shame. We have become a laughing stock in other states.” He was referring to the infighting within the AIADMK, resort politics and the alleged bribing of voters in R.K. Nagar polls.

Harping on to his “need to change the system” message, Rajinikanth said time has finally come to usher in dramatic changes in politics in Tamil Nadu. “The system is corrupt and everything has to be changed. We need to inculcate spiritual politics that is not influenced by caste or religion. That is my aim,” he told his fans.

“I congratulate my brother Rajini for his social consciousness and his political entry. Welcome welcome,” Kamal Haasan said.