What was expected about two decades ago in Tamil Nadu, India, might soon become a reality soon. South India’s ‘super star’ and movie idol, Rajnikanth (Rajni) announced on Dec 31, 2017, that he would be forming a new political party to contest in the state assembly election scheduled in 2021.
Rajnikanth has acted in more than 200 films mainly in Tamil Nadu, many of these movies have broken box-office records. His movie Kabali that catapulted him to fame in the Tamil diaspora world netted more than RM100 million in profits.
Rajni is considered one of the highest paid actors in India. However, he made his mark in the Tamil movie industry based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Rajni after having eluded the topic of entering politics for more than two decades has finally announced that he would enter into politics to save Tamil Nadu from chaotic politics.
He indirectly hinted in his speech that he would put a stop to politics in Tamil Nadu that destroyed democracy and good governance as result of the role of two Dravidian political parties, the Dravida Munnetra Kalzham (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kalzham (AADMK.
In the news that captured the headlines of the mass media both in India and elsewhere, Rajni made it clear that his political party to be managed by cadres on a voluntary basis would bring a new dimension to the politics of Tamil Nadu.
He said that his politics would be based on broad spiritualism devoid of caste and religions leanings.
Rajni and BJP?
Whether it was a coincidence or a deliberate design, Rajni’s entry into politics in Tamil Nadu comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party Baratiya Janata Party (BJP) is seriously considering of making in-roads into the politics of the southern states, including Tamil Nadu.
It has been rumoured that BJP needs reliable allies in Tamil Nadu who would be able to gain they trust of Tamils in the state. However, whether BJP would be able to team up with Rajni remains to be seen.
Some political analysts think that there is much porosity between the overt religious politics of BJP and Rajni’s spiritualism. Furthermore, Rajni’s lack of political experience and that fact he is not a Tamil himself might force him to join BJP at some point.
Rajni is not from Tamil Nadu and neither is he a Tamil himself. He had very humble beginning in the state of Karnataka where he was a bus conductor before he migrated to Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to make a big name for himself in the cinema world.
He is an excellent actor in the Tamil movies. He has fans and supporters world wide. His movies are watched and enjoyed in so many countries.
His “super star” role in Kabali shot in Malaysia attracted the attention of non-Tamils in countries like Malaysia.
I think it would to too wrong to say that one of his fans is none other than Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak. Najib who in his recent trip to Tamil Nadu made a courtesy call on him and his family.
Tamil Nadu is perhaps the only state in India that allows non-Tamils to high public office in the country. This is not reflected in other states.
Ramachandran and Jayalalitha
The former chief minister MG Ramachandran who became the chief minister after carving out a name for himself in the Tamil movies was not a Tamil himself. He origins lay in the Indian state of Kerala. But he considered himself as a Tamil, spoke the language well and even supported the Tamil national cause in Sri Lanka.
Another famous movie actor in Tamil Nadu who made a name of herself in politics was none other than Jayaraman Jayalalitha, a close protege of Ramachandran.
She became the chief minister of the state after the death of Ramachandran due to kidney failure. She was a Tamil from the state of Karnataka who made her name for herself in the Tamil movie industry, often acting the role of heroine, co-starring with Ramachandran.
In the beginning she was not sympathetic to the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka, but later changed her stand as result of the atrocities against the Tamils.
Traditionally, movie credentials have been important to for those seeking to enter into Tamil Nadu politics.
Ramachandran and Jayalalitha provide near perfect examples.
Like these two former chief ministers, Rajni has a powerful movie credentials. He carefully and systematically built a name for himself in the Tamil cinema world.
However, success in the movie world might be a good start, but there is no automatic assurance that he would be successful in the tops-turvy world Tamil politics.
There are already signs on the wall that he might have problems in the political realm and whether his experience and stardom in the make-belief world of movies will stand him good.
Turbulent world of Tamil politics
The fact that he is not Tamil and not well-versed in the Tamil language might be used by his opponents to discredit him. Unfortunately, he comes from Karnataka that is not tolerant of Tamils.
In the past, Tamils have been attacked and driven out of the state by goons hired by some ultra nationalist Karnataka politicians. While the Tamils in Tamil Nadu have allowed non-Tamils from the neighbouring states to settle in their state, such welcome is not forthcoming for them in states like Karnataka and other southern states.
For purpose of popularity and commercial reasons, Rajni acts and thinks that he is a Tamil. However, such acts do not go beyond the movie world. He has refused to condemn the atrocities against Tamils in his own state of Karnataka.
When hundreds and thousands of Tamils were murdered in Sri Lanka, he refused to say a word about this gross genocide against Tamils.
In real life, Rajni might not be the person that is portrayed in the movies. He is smart, cunning and at times highly opportunistic when it comes to opposing the atrocities committed against Tamils whether they are in India or Sri Lanka.
Some political commentators are saying that what is the point for Rajni to make millions from poor Tamils without lending his voice to support them during times difficult times.
In other words, the generosity and kindness of Tamils are seldom reciprocated by Rajni in meaningful ways.
While it is the democratic right of Rajni to enter into politics, however, restoring democracy needs more than spiritualism or voluntarism on the part of his cadres.
I am not sure whether Rajni has seriously underestimated the rather complex and turbulent world of Tamil Nadu politics, than requires “unique” qualities to come and stay in power.
How and in what ways he is going to meander his way through is something left to been seen.
I might even agree with Rajni that the people of Tamil Nadu need a new kind of politics that would take them away from the archaic and decadent politics of the different variants of the Dravidian political parties.
I am not sure what Rajni means by spiritual politics. Although there are chances that he might be amplifying the matter in the days ahead, it cannot be helped to say that notion of spiritual politics, his mantra, seems an abstract concept.
How he is going to glean it away from the deep seated hold of religions is matter that needs serious consideration?
He might be very spiritual in the conduct of his own life, but whether such a thinking can be superimposed on the religious believes of Tamils for political change seems to be naive way of thinking of politics.
He might not have any links with the BJP or the Hindutva movement for the time being, however, political necessity might predispose or force him to take a spiritual line that might be congruence with dominant trends in time to come.
The history of India is a history of Hinduism and multiple variants that withstood and weathered the incursion of alien religions like Islam, Christianity and others.
So what make Rajni and his followers think that his mantra of “spiritualism” might not meet a similar fate.
Rajni in his zeal to enter politics should not remotely think that an association with BJP at a later point of time can catapult him to power in Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil psyche is such that it would oppose any moves or attempts to introduce politics that seeks to subordinate the interests of Tamils to those of non-Tamils, whether they come through the form of Congress Party or the BJP.