If the star is serious, this is his final chance, for Tamil Nadu polls are due in 2021.

 

NEW DELHI: In Tamil Nadu, there seems to be no end to speculation over the much-awaited, but each time aborted, birth of superstar Rajinikanth’s political party. He has been threatening to launch one for the past three years, but nothing happened. Some say Rajini will take his political plunge on 14 April, on “Puthuvarusham” or Tamil New Year. It is a matter of now or never. There are two reasons to believe the latest rumour. One, if the star is serious about his intent, this is his final chance, for Tamil Nadu Assembly elections are due in May 2021. There are confirmed reports of his meetings with smaller parties, prominent among them Paattali Makkal Katchi, the political outfit of the powerful backward caste Vanniyars floated by S. Ramadoss, and some leaders belonging to the ruling AIADMK. Two, the unexpected political fallout of an income tax raid on actor Vijay, better known as “Ilaya Thalapathi” (Junior Commander), may force Rajini to hasten his moves.

Rather than allow Vijay speak his politics in his films, the BJP government at the Centre by sending its I-T officials to Chennai has indeed sent out wrong signals: Toe the line or we will silence you. This may force Vijay, undoubtedly the biggest star in Tamil cinema after Rajinikanth, come to the forefront and take command at the political battlefield, ahead of his seniors. Already people have shed the “ilaya” tag. Rajini or, for that matter politician Kamal Haasan, cannot ignore the rousing welcome Vijay got when he went back to the Neyveli coal mines where he was shooting for Master after more than 36-hour grilling by I-T sleuths. Compared to Rajini’s “spiritual politics”, of which he is still vague about, Vijay’s heroes react to contemporary problems faced by the common man such as demonetisation, black money and GST. Somewhere down the line Vijay connects with the people, reminiscent of MGR, more than Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.

According to a close friend of Rajini, the actor is likely to end three years’ wait for a political party, which itself is a prolonged one. Tamilaruvi Manian, a Tamil scholar who calls himself as “a close confidant, friend and definitely not an adviser as he does not need any advice”, emphatically says “it (the party) will happen between April and September this year.” In an interview to a Chennai-based daily, Manian has said that there would be a big party conference in September. “Just like DMK and AIADMK, Rajini has started appointing booth committee members in all the 234 Assembly constituencies. As of now 80% of the work has been completed and the remaining will be completed very soon. This is a very big task Rajini has completed and this shows how serious he is about launching the party. His party infrastructure, including bylaws, its policies, what issues need to be mentioned in the manifesto, etc are all ready,” Manian has elaborated.

But strangely, Manian was silent on the name of the party. All he would say was that Rajini hero worships the legendry grassroots Congress leader, the late K. Kamaraj. Ironically, Kamaraj was famous for his one-word reaction, “paakkalam” (non-committal, will see) to major issues confronting the party then. We will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, he is sure to get support from Kaml Haasan and many smaller parties, some of them even willing to merge with the new party. As for his alliance with BJP, it is anybody’s guess. Political commentators only point to the fact that RSS ideologue and Thuglak magazine editor, Gurumurthy is close to Rajinikanth. That alone cannot assure Rajini joining hands with BJP. Remember, he had to bend backwards when questions were raised about his “spiritual politics”. At that time Rajinikanth had said “honest and secular politics is spiritual politics,” reiterating his secular credentials that some critics were doubtful of and speculation that he was ideologically closer to the BJP. Much water has flown down the Cooum since then.

Even as the question, “if not now when” hangs over Rajini’s party, there is unrest brewing within the traditional Dravidian parties. AIADMK’s relation with BJP is strained following elections to the local bodies. Accusing former Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan as the “fountainhead of terrorism in Tamil Nadu” after he suggested that the BJP should have contested alone has embarrassed the ruling party to no extent. The about-turn of PMK, an alliance partner, on the issue of CAA has also come as a setback to AIADMK. Tamil Nadu’s rejection of a hydrocarbon project in the Cauvery delta cleared by the Union Environment Ministry has not gone down well in Delhi.

The latest objection is over the Centre’s move on national census and the National Population Register. It has been reported that Chief Minister Palaniswamy has written to the Prime Minister requesting the Centre to drop certain contentious questions from the census before it can be carried out in the state. His government the other day took out front-page advertisements in two English national dailies about the work done in the state in the name of the late Jayalalithaa. Was Amma’s party trying to convey a message to the ruling party at the Centre? The DMK-Congress alliance is also on a shaky wicket in the aftermath of the local body elections. There was bitter wrangling over seat-sharing in many districts which has left a sour taste. Tamil Nadu’s political stage is set for a mega-star blockbuster. It sure will not be a flop.

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