Will Rajini be a hit in politics?

Will Rajini be a hit in politics?

Box office popularity does not always translate into success in politics, say political observers

From Kabali, where Rajinikanth plays a community leader. On Wednesday,he said he prefers the role of elder statesman and not chief minister.

On Thursday, when Rajinikanth formally announced his plunge into party politics, analysts responded to his plans and strategies with scepticism. His chances are non-existent to slim, observers Metrolife spoke to said.

‘He is an outsider’

Dr Narendar Pani, National Institute of Advanced Sciences

Dr Narendar Pani, professor, School of Social Sciences, National Institute of Advanced Studies, says not all successful actors become successful as politicians. “It will be interesting to see what will happen in the case of Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. Previously the actors who came into politics came in with a large fan following or had acted in movies with political content,” says Pani.

In many ways, Rajinikanth is an outsider who cannot play the caste card. Like Jayalaitha, who co-opted some non-Brahmin castes, Rajini will have to create his own coalition, Pani says.
“So caste politics will have indirect play there,” he observes.

‘He has no caste support’

M K Raghavendra, Author and film critic

M K Raghavendra, well-known author and film critic, says Rajinikanth clearly does not have the support of any caste. “He is not part of any movement. MGR was a part of the Dravidian movement and Jayalalitha took over. Rajini is surrounded by fans who paint a false picture about his popularity,” says Raghavendra. Rajinikanth may win some seats because of his fan clubs, and people may vote for him because of his do-gooder image, but he isn’t cut out for the tough haul, Raghavendra suggests. “Rajinikanth will be a complete flop. He will lose his brand equity as Rajinikanth and it will damage his persona,” he predicts. “Actors like Kamal Haasan and Chiranjeevi have not reached anywhere in politics, despite their popularity.”

He sees a vacuum in TN

Dr Sandeep Shastri, Political analyst

Dr Sandeep Shastri, psephologist and political analyst, says Rajinikanth is in politics because he sees a vacuum in Tamil Nadu. “All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is going downwards and there is no opposition to the DMK-led alliance. So, in that sense, he sees himself as having a role to play,” says Shastri. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of Modi striking an alliance with the BJP. “He is looking at an alliance with the BJP at some stage... his flip-flop statements indicate just that. And the BJP too is also looking at a face in Tamil Nadu they can piggyback on. The BJP sees very little value in continuing with the AIADMK,” he says. Rajinikanth hopes the BJP will make up for his inadequacies and the BJP hopes Rajinikanth will make up for its lack of a face, he sums up.

His strategy is all wrong

Harish Ramaswamy, Political science professor

Tamil Nadu is unlikely to go with a leader who says he doesn’t want chief ministership, says Harish Ramaswamy, professor of political science, Karnatak University, Dharwad. “Historically, a leader is someone who has also been a mass leader in popular culture. So Rajinikanth with such a large following is not making the best use of such a presence if he says he is merely going to be there without taking up an important role,” he says.

Nobody really knows Rajinikanth’s ideological moorings. For a long time people thought he was supporting the BJP but then he said he would go with fellow film actor Kamal Haasan, who leans in another direction. “The major difference between the two is that Kamal is well-rooted in his thoughts and ideas, whereas Rajinikanth is superficial,” says Harish. Rajini has ended up in a situation where he won’t take up administrative leadership, or even take up the mantle of a party that already exists. “He cannot be a mentor to anybody right now because all political parties have their own mentors. Politics is about power and without power he can’t do anything,” observes Harish.

Saying 70 per cent of members in his party will be below 50 years doesn’t make sense either. “It is only a synergy of the old and young that will help formulate strong policies. Youngsters are usually radical in their thoughts, but that won’t work in Indian politics where you also need evolutionary policies and that comes from experienced leaders,” adds Harish. 

Simplicity his strength

Sumalatha Ambarish, MP from Mandya and a friend of Rajinikanth’s family, says he has the best of intentions.

“He wishes to give back to society what he has received from it. I would say that it is his humility and simplicity that has brought him this far. His stardom has never affected him,” she says.

What Rajini said

Superstar Rajinikanth announced on Thursday his decision to start a party.

Here is a summary of what he said

Not interested in the chief minister’s chair.

Will lead the party and advise the government.

70 per cent of party members will be below 50.

Will contest all 234 seats in Tamil Nadu in 2021.

Spiritual idea is new

Ramesh Aravind, a long-time friend of Rajinikanth, says both onscreen and offscreen, Rajini comes has his heart in the right place. “His idea of spiritual politics is new. I wish him all the best in his new journey,” says Ramesh.


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