Creating a sort of political tsunami, Tamil Super Star Rajnikanth announced his entry into politics ending two decades of speculation, on 31 December 2017. While his announcement came as a New Year Gift for millions of his fans, it landed as ahuge bolt to the Dravidian racist parties, Communists and Tamil separatists.
Earlier, while meeting his fans on a daily basis, Rajni had committed that he would make an announcement on 31st and indeed he had made it. Rajni said, “Time has come for me to enter politics. I will start a party a few months before the next assembly elections due in 2021 and I will contest in all the 234 Constituencies”.
Explaining the reasons behind his decision, Rajni said, “Politics in Tamil Nadu has deteriorated and democracy has decayed to a large extent. The political events which have been unfolding in the recent past have made the people hang their heads in shame. People of other states are laughing at us. If I don’t do anything to correct the situation, my conscience and feeling of guilt will prick me and affect me till my death”.
Rajni drew a parallel with the olden days and pointed out the difference saying, “Those days, while waging war with neighboring countries, kings looted the palaces of their enemies; but, in the name of democracy political parties are looting their own people in different ways and methods. This has to be changed and we will change it”.
Rajni continued, “We will start a political party, convey our ideology to people and tell them what we will do. If we can’t do what we committed, we will resign in three years”.
In course of his announcement, he had a few punch dialogues for his cadres. He said, “If I had the seat of power in mind, I would have grabbed it in 1996 itself. I said no to it when I was 45 then. Do you think I would want it when I am 68 now? I am not here for money and fame. Tamil people have given me enough of it. I am not scared of politics”. In a lighter vein, he added, “I am scared of only media”.
He motivated his cadres saying, “Every party has its foundation on cadre strength. I have my Rajni Fans Welfare Associations and all of you. But, I will not call you as cadres. I will address you as ‘Guardians’. My party needs guardians, who will guard the state watching politicians and government officials. I will supervise the guardians as a people’s representative. We have thousands of ‘Registered Associations’ across the state and unregistered associations are more in number. We will include the unregistered ones, register them officially. We will add more and more people irrespective of age and form a huge network of ‘guardians’. We will start right away. We have a tough task ahead”.
As expected, the response from his cadres in the venue and outside was ecstatic. They have been waiting for this announcement for more than two decades and they received it with joy and enthusiasm.
In course of his announcement, Rajni introduced a new term “Spiritual Politics” (AanmeegaArasiyal – in Tamil). He said, “Our politics will be beyond caste and religion; it will be ‘spiritual’ in nature and practice”.
He quoted the verse,
mā karma-phala-heturbhūrmātesaṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi”
from the Bhagwath Gita and said, “Let us do our duty; let us not be concerned about the results. God will be with us and He will take care of it”.
Probably, Rajni would be the first person in the history of politics, making an entry uttering a verse of Gita and giving a spiritual dimension to politics. His term ‘Spiritual Politics’ had been received with shock, surprise and awe in Tamil Nadu. While the Dravidian political parties were shocked and his fans were surprised, people in general, who have been yearning for a change, admired.
Rajni is one person who had never hesitated to project himself as a spiritual person having steadfast faith in God.
Dravidian Racist politics was built upon Atheism and Brahmin hatred. It was blatant hypocrisy, for the Dravidian racist politicians practiced Atheism outside while following religious practices inside their homes; they projected an ideology of ‘social justice’, but indulged in ugly caste politics and Brahmin hatred.
While Late Actor Shivaji Ganesan and Late Lyricist Kannadasan were some of the popular personalities from the Dravidian political arena to turn into ‘believers’, it was MG Ramachandran who broke the backbone of Atheist politics, by his visit to Mookambika Temple in Kollur, Karnataka. It made a huge impact among the masses, as he was a successful politician unlike ShivajiGanesan. Later on Jayalalitha followed it more openly, regularly visiting temples.
However, all these Dravidian politicians could not come out of the ‘Dravidian Maya’ created by E.V.Ramasamy and Annadurai. Although, they publicly projected their faith in God, they could not practice a politics which could be perceived as against the policies of EVR and Anna. They continued to carry the burden, fearing a resultant downfall of going against the policies of EVR and Anna. Moreover, their faith in God was more of a self-centered approach than having welfare of state in mind.
Dravidian Maya has created a sort of halo behind EVR and Anna and shedding them or their policies has been considered as an anathema in the state. In this kind of a scenario, one needs real guts to project oneself as a spiritual person and more courage and commitment to proclaim that he would practice ‘Spiritual’ politics.
In one stroke, in this singular announcement alone, Rajni has scored well, catching the imagination of people of Tamil Nadu.
Serious Contemplation; Firm Decision
Rajni has come a long way from being an ordinary bus conductor to a celebrated super star. He reached the pinnacles of glory by sheer hard work, commitment, perseverance and absolute faith in God. Rajni’s decision to plunge into politics is neither impulsive nor hasty. He has been contemplating for a long time. He has weighed the pros and cons. A lot of consultation seemed to have gone behind.
In May 2017, he was having a series of meetings with his fans. Heavy speculation was going on in political, media and film circles that he might plunge into politics. His fans were also eagerly awaiting the same. He however deferred the decision, but indicated in his own inimitable style that he would enter in future.
At the end of the series of meetings with his fans, he had said, “The system is spoilt. Democracy has been spoilt. People are not happy about the present political scenario. They want a change. All must work together to bring that change.” This statement was a clear indication that he would enter politics soon. A close look at his path from the nineties to the present would reveal the magnitude of contemplation, process of consultation, patience and perseverance behind his decision.
Rajni made his first statement on politics in 1996. Between 1991 and 1996, Tamil Nadu had witnessed the worst form of governance under Jayalalithaa.Sasikala and family, addressed as ‘Mannargudi Mafia’ by the media, were running berserk then. So, at the function to mark the successful run of his movie ‘Baasha’ (made in 1995), Rajni opened up and talked politics. Then he made the most famous statement that, “Even God cannot save Tamil Nadu, if Jayalalithaa is voted back to power”. That single statement caused the defeat of AIADMK in the electoral hustings in 1996 and catapulted Karunanidhi to the CM’s Chair.
Since then, Rajni’s “voice” has become a phenomenon in the state’s political scenario. Even now, it is believed by many political pundits that, had he started a political party then, he would have been sitting as Chief Minister now. After Baasha came a series of successful films such as Muthu, Arunachalam, Padaiyappa, et al.Much before Baasha, he had given some huge hits such as Annamalai, Yejaman and Veera. In the 1990s, he was the darling of the masses. From children to great grandparents, Rajni was loved by one and all.
In the 1990s, Rajni’s fan base grew by leaps and bounds and millions of youth registered themselves in the “Rajnikanth Fans Welfare Association”. He was motivating them to take up social causes and work for the society. This writer had personally witnessed Rajni helping the marriage of twenty poor fans every year in his RaghavendraKalyanaMandapam, taking care of the entire expenses, including a full set of household articles needed for a newlywed couple. He also helped with the education of the children of his fans. Even now, he reportedly does charity works without any advertisement.
His absolute faith in God induced his fans also to flaunt their faith in public. This made an everlasting mark on the psyche of people of Tamil Nadu, who have otherwise been seeing Dravidian racists, rationalists and communists as political leaders. That is why his term “Spiritual Politics” gains significance.
Rajni continued his successful run in the tinsel world. His charisma and mass appeal was again in display when his health failed and he had to be air dashed to Singapore for treatment. Millions of fans prayed for his quick recovery in all major temples across the state. A parallel can be drawn here with the act of AIADMK cadres praying for the health of MGR when he was hospitalized, and, for the release of Jayalalitha from prison and her recovery from hospitalization before her death. Rajni recovered and continued acting. Recent successes like Enthiran (Robot) and Kabali highlight the fact that his fan base is intact and people of all ages love him.
Although he patched up with Jayalalitha during her second term, probably because of the advice of his political mentor and friend Cho Ramaswamy, he maintained equidistance from both Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi, neither supporting them nor positioning against them. While there were ripples of his entering politics in the media and political circles every now and then, he might have been clear in his mind that he could not do much as long as both Jaya and Karuna were active.
Rajni has been settled in Tamil Nadu for almost four decades and he has seen the Dravidian politics from close quarters. He has seen how MGR shifted from films to politics and how he utilised his mass appeal to have a successful political career. He has seen how Jayalalithaa used her film-fame and built upon MGR’s basement and ultimately removed him from the scene altogether, branding and establishing herself as the benevolent and blessing “Mother” (Amma) of all. He has also witnessed the success of NTR and the failure of other heroes such as Chiranjeevi and Vijayakanth as politicians.
He has been waiting for the right time to make his entry and what better time he can have other than the vacuum created by Jayalalitha’s death and Karunanidhi’s exit from active politics. His announcement says it all!
Impact of Rajni’s announcement
DMK Working President Stalin was one of the firsts to react to Rajni’s announcement. He said that Rajni’s entry would not have any impact, either positive or negative, for DMK. Although he projects a brave face, he must be thinking of Rajni’s singular statement which caused the defeat of Jayalalitha and return of his father Karunanidhi to power in 1996.
The AIADMK must also be brooding over the same famous statement that, ‘Even God cannot save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalitha is returned to power”. The party, which is already divided into two factions, must be certainly worried about Rajni’s continuing popularity and the absence of Jayalalitha.
Smaller parties such as the DMDK and PMK have also projected a brave face and claimed that Rajni’s entry would not impact them. They are also of the opinion that he had not made his policies and plans clear and so people would not fall for filmy dialogues. While DMDK Chief Vijayakanth has not come out with any statement, as he is down due to ill health, MDMK Chief Vaiko refrained from reacting. He said that he doesn’t have any comments to make on Rajni’s entry, as of now, except welcoming him to politics.
All these parties projected themselves as an alternative to the two Dravidian majors AIADMK and DMK, but finally ended up as an also ran and indulged in alliance politics with the very same majors which they wanted to fight. Another party NTK (Nam ThamizharKatchi), which has its foundation on Tamil separatism, is also trying to project a brave face. Its president Actor Seeman, has been scathing in his attack on Rajni terming him an “outsider” having Kannada origin.
Rajni, however, answered those who criticize his Kannada origin in his inimitable style. He said, “I am 68 now. I have been in Tamil Nadu for the last 44 years. I have attained this stage in my life only because of the people of Tamil Nadu. People of Tamil Nadu have given me name, fame and money, and also made me a true Tamilian. So, what is wrong if I aspire for the welfare of the very same people, who have given me everything?”
Those critics, who malign him as a “Kannadiga”, must know that he is actually a Marathi, with an original name ShivajiRaoGaekwad. They must also know that, Tamil Nadu, the land of Vedas and spirituality, was once gloriously ruled by the Marathas and the Telugu Nayaks, who preserved and protected the art, culture and literature of Tamil Nadu. What has been going on in the state for more than half a century in the name “Tamil” has been actually anti-Tamil and Rajni is a shrewd person, who would understand it. So, such attacks would not bother him much.
Rajni’s friendship with BJP leaders, both at the center and in the state, is also well known. So, there is a section in political circles including a few parties, saying that BJP is behind Rajni’s foray into politics. However, this opinion is absurd and without any base. BJP, on its part, has welcomed Rajni to politics and is also upbeat about his term ‘Spiritual Politics’. BJP leaders are of the view that Rajni’s spiritual politics would help them indirectly to fight against the atheist Dravidian forces.
Meanwhile, other actors like Kamala Haasan, Joseph Vijay and Vishal, who have been creating minute ripples in the political arena, have ended up like comedians. Among the three, Kamal Haasan was the only actor, who made some noise with his twitter handle. The mainstream media also tried to project him into political limelight with interviews, reports and articles. But in the absence of considerable response from the public, he himself fell silent.
It can be said in a nutshell that Rajni’s mere announcement of entering politics has shaken the entire state and the political arena is in for interesting days ahead. An exodus of second and third rung leaders from other parties can also be expected soon. The first casualty may be Vijayakanth’s DMDK, for most of his second and third rung leaders and cadres were actually Rajni’s fans, who joined him with political ambitions, after losing patience with Rajnikanth. So it would be better for ‘Captain’ Vijayakanth to merge his party with Rajni’s party and work with him shoulder to shoulder.
What the future holds
Subsequent to his announcement, Rajni had met a section of media and told them that he wants to create a sort of revolution in politics. He has said that the future generation will have a better life as a result of the change which he plans to bring into effect.
He had announced an online membership drive and in just one day, (January 1 2018), his site has received more than a million hits and more than 3 lakh people have already registered themselves. At this juncture it is imperative to mention that, when the registration of his ‘Fans Welfare Associations’ was stopped in the early nineties, there were 50,000 of them with at least 25 to 30 people in each one of them. Even then unofficial associations continued to be launched. People in the knowhow say that his Fans Welfare Associations are well organized and networked and that it would come in handy for him in the coming days to travel and meet people.
Rajni has coined his Political Mantra as “Truth, Hard work, Excellence”, conveying a simple but effective message that Excellence can be achieved by truth and hard work.
He has also conveyed his ideology as “Think Good, Talk Good, Do Good; Good only will happen” to his supporters. It clearly speaks of his good intentions.
With such noble thoughts (Spiritual politics, Mantra, Ideology, etc.), Rajni has plunged into politics and started his work.Close on the heels of his announcement, he visited Ramakrishna Mutt which celebrates ‘Kalapataru Day’ on 1 January every year to mark the spiritual awareness created by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He met Swami Gautamananada, the chief of the Mutt.
However, there is already an attempt to brand him as a ‘Communal’ (read Hindutva man, for quoting Gita, projecting spiritual politics, etc.). But again, Rajni has clarified that ‘Spiritual Politics’ means the politics which goes beyond caste and religion. Moreover, Rajni is also very conscious of his secular image. He knows his huge fan base comprises of youth from all communities and that people from all religions love him. So, he will not sacrifice his secular image and individual authority. He will maintain a balanced approach.
Notwithstanding all these factors, Rajni indeed has a few areas of concern. Firstly his age will be a concern. By the time, his party starts contesting elections in 2021, he would have crossed 70. Second concern will be his health. He had health constraints in the recent past and got cured only after a prolonged treatment and special attention in a world class hospital in Singapore. So, having these two constraints, he may be forced to groom his successors soon. People in general and critics in particular, will closely watch if he is able to detach his family from politics.
Thirdly, his image as a successful film star may also be a concern. It is an obvious truth that film industry mostly runs on black money, and that, more than everybody heroes are the maximum earners. So, his actions will be watched closely and critics and adversaries may try to paint him corrupt at every opportunity.
Fourth concern will be money and funding. Running a political party with high ambitions is not an easy task. Politics needs huge investments, and for Tamil Nadu, less said the better. One needs huge financial resources and funding to spread the party forming committees district wise, thaluk wise, Panchayat wise and booth wise. Travel and campaigning also needs a lot of money.
Rajni knows that the people of Tamil Nadu are aspiring for a change and are looking for a fresh charismatic leader. He is aware of Tamil Nadu’s affinity for film personalities. He is also aware of his strong fan base. He must also be aware of his limitations. Sensing the opportunity he has taken the plunge with a confidence of filling the vacuum.
The Dravidian Racists are visibly shaken. The Tamil Separatists are vociferously opposing. Anti-national organisations and outfits are spewing venom.
Will his ‘Spiritual Politics’ mark the end of their free run? Will he be successful? It would augur well for the state and the people, if he achieves success. We have to only wait and see!
By B.R.Haran from Chennai