Bengaluru: Superstar Rajinikanth’s famous punchline from the 2002 Tamil blockbuster Baba — ‘Naan late-aa vandalum, latesta varuven (Even though I come late, I will be the latest)’ — now seems like a prophecy.
With the Tamil Nadu assembly elections due next year summer, the hugely popular actor Thursday announced that he will launch his own political party in January 2021, ending years of intense speculation.
The 69-year-old actor-turned-politician’s entry in politics had been speculated for over 25 years.
His decision comes three days after he held a meeting with the office-bearers and members of Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM), a platform created three years ago to facilitate his entry into active politics.
“We will surely win the assembly polls and give people a non-corrupt, honest, transparent, secular and spiritual politics. A wonder and miracle will definitely happen,” Rajnikanth tweeted in Tamil with the hashtag “It’s now or never” and “we will change everything”.
— Rajinikanth (@rajinikanth) December 3, 2020
The actor, however, kept people guessing on whether he would contest all the 234 assembly seats or not and whether he would go it alone or form an alliance with other parties.
In March this year, the actor reportedly said he would neither be the chief ministerial candidate nor would he contest the polls. If he still plans to stick to this plan, he would leave his fans heartbroken, who have been rooting for him as Tamil Nadu’s chief minister.
However, it remains to be seen if Rajinikanth, popular for his dialogue delivery and gestures in movies, will be able to convert his large fan base into his vote bank.
Political experts note that the actor has over the years shown indecisiveness in taking the political plunge and if he shows the same attitude in his political career, it may spell doom for him.
‘Would like to know what he means by spiritual politics’
Speaking to ThePrint, political analyst Sumanth C. Raman said Rajinikanth has a charisma and mass appeal that neither CM Edapadi Palaniswami nor DMK chief M.K. Stalin can match.
“The last time a popular actor managed to convert his huge fan base to support his party and successfully win elections was N.T. Rama Rao. Rao launched his party, Telugu Desam Party, in 1982, around nine months before the assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh. Rajinikanth has done so with just four months to go. This has sent political parties in Tamil Nadu into a tizzy,” he said.
“One would like to know what he plans to do, how will his party be different from others and what he means by saying it would be spiritually-inclined,” he added.
Tamil Nadu currently has a leadership vacuum, Raman said, as the two tall political leaders who were at the helm of affairs for the last few decades — DMK supremo K. Karunanidhi and AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa — have passed away. Karunanidhi’s son Stalin now heads the DMK.
“Palaniswami and Stalin do not measure up to the stature and charisma of Rajinikanth, who has mass appeal as well,” he added.
However, Chennai-based political analyst K.N. Arun said that Rajnikanth’s entry has further crowded the political space in the state.
“The two Kazhagams (AIADMK and DMK) are well entrenched in the state. Will he be able to change the political course as he promises with his charisma? One needs to see. I am not sure how much of his charisma would contribute to his success as a leader,” Arun said.
Rajinikanth has over the years shown that he has been indecisive to take the plunge into politics, and if he shows the same attitude while running his party, it may spell doom for him, Arun added.
He also said the actor’s claim of “spiritual politics and in the same breath mentioning secular politics seems rather confusing”.
On whether Rajinikanth would align with the BJP, Arun said the decision lies solely with the actor.
For the BJP, Rajinikanth could be a good ally as the AIADMK has already announced their alliance with the national party for the state polls, and the actor’s support could add more weightage.
On 2 November, noted political-economic commentator and RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy met the actor, triggering a fresh round of speculation on the possibility of BJP reaching out to him. Gurumurthy had reportedly impressed upon Rajinikanth to reconsider his plans of keeping away from politics.
Soon after Rajinikanth’s announcement Thursday, Gurumurthy also tweeted saying Tamil Nadu will turn to spiritual politics in 2021 elections.
Rajnikanth has taken the decision which the whole of Tamil Nadu has been anxiously and expectantly waiting for. He has decided to form his party in January 2021. As per his dialogue “Late but Latest” Congrats Rajni. Tamil Nadu will turn to spiritual politics in 2021 elections https://t.co/1BDgBuKsqF
— S Gurumurthy (@sgurumurthy) December 3, 2020
Health a concern
Rajnikanth’s health, though, has been a major concern.
After a kidney transplant, his doctors advised him to refrain from travelling during the pandemic. They said he was in the ‘high risk’ category and could be vulnerable to Covid-19.
However, the actor’s close aides told ThePrint they plan to use innovative techniques to ensure that Rajinikanth remains safe while campaigning for the polls.
This includes use of video-conferencing and pre-recorded videos to address people in public functions, limited interactions with leaders of his party and it would be made mandatory for everyone to undergo a Covid-19 test before meeting him, a close aide said.
They are also contemplating using a specialised “bio-bubble” that was seen during the Indian Premier League this year. Bio-bubbles are marked out areas that limit the interactions of the people and the environment within from that outside it. This is done to ensure a sanitised space, which shrinks the possibility of a Covid-19 spread.