Many say ‘there seems to be a tacit understanding between BJP and Rajinikanth’.

CHENNAI: On Thursday, superstar Rajinikanth finally announced his intention to start his political outfit and contest the 2021 elections in Tamil Nadu. In fact, he went a step further to state that he didn’t mind giving his life for the people of Tamil Nadu, but political change was necessary. The film star’s political entry has been an ongoing debate for the last few years in the state and it now has ended the 24-year wait for his fans. While many believed that he might not take the plunge due to his health issues, it now looks like Rajinikanth has realised that if he doesn’t contest in 2021, it would be an opportunity lost forever, hence his hashtag “if not now, never”. While his fans were jubilant and celebrating across the state, other political parties were more cautious of their response to this move. The general opinion is that the superstar’s entry into politics is due to political pressure and is part of the BJP’s plan to break the Dravidian stronghold in Tamil Nadu politics. However, now there are likely to be winds of change in alignments in the coming days.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Chennai recently has already fuelled speculation of possible new announcements and subsequent political changes. With Rajinikanth’s announcement of Ra Arjunamurthy (former state president of BJP Intellectual Wing who shared the state with Amit Shah during his visit) as chief co-ordinator of the party, there is widespread belief that the actor has been propped up by the BJP to split votes in the upcoming elections.
Congress MP Karti Chidambaram told The Sunday Guardian, “Rajinikanth’s ‘party’ seems to be propped up by the BJP which is playing out a larger agenda in Tamil Nadu. He is relying on people who were part of the BJP till 11 am on the day of his announcement and the BJP has felicitated their move!
In fact, the BJP spokesperson has stated that there are no policy differences between Rajinikanth and them. Thus, there seems to be a tacit understanding between BJP and Rajinikanth.”
The AIADMK has already announced their alliance with the BJP and with Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s statement congratulating Rajinikanth and talking about chances of a possible alliance with him, and the actor’s induction of Arjunamurthy, Rajini’s conscious effort to distance himself from the saffron party in recent months have gone awry. The superstar is now being perceived as a staunch BJP ally who is being used by the national party to further their political interests in the state.
However, there are also several political theories that have sprung up with Rajini’s announcement. An opinion shared by some, including Karti Chidambaram, is that Rajinikanth could ally with the BJP and with possibly Deputy CM O. Panneerselvam (OPS) joining him, creating a rift in the AIADMK and eventual splitting of the party. The simmering rift between Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy CM OPS has been in the news for a while and this could be OPS’ chance to forge his own path. Whether he will is the big question.
Meanwhile, analysts state that some small parties may be keen to ally with Rajinikanth and ride on his popularity. The DMK has the backing of the minorities which is unlikely to change and Rajinikanth has a large following from the Dalit community which is seen as a positive.
Post Rajini’s announcement, there was a sudden buzz that the DMK-Congress alliance may see a shift, but Karti Chidambaram put this to rest stating, “The Congress-DMK alliance remains strong. Let there be no speculation about that.”
So how much will Rajinikanth’s entry into Tamil Nadu politics have an impact on the upcoming elections? Like some politicians, political analysts state that there are numerous factors at play here and given that Rajinikanth is yet to make announcements about possible alliances, it would be too early to comment. Will he contest 234 seats on his own? Will they form an alliance with the BJP? Will smaller parties be part of their fold? Who are the candidates they are fielding? Who is the Chief Ministerial candidate? Political commentator Sumanth Raman told The Sunday Guardian, “We need to wait and see his strategy; whether he’ll contest alone or form an alliance.”
The superstar’s entry into the political arena is likely to dent the vote bank of the two largest parties in the state—the AIADMK and the DMK.
How well he fares in the election is another matter, say political party office-bearers. Chidambaram added, “There is a lot of promise before a batsman comes to the crease, but only when he comes to bat do we know his true potential.”