Rajini’s praise for Modi-Shah triggers speculation

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth. PTI file photo

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth’s gushing praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for handling the Jammu and Kashmir issue by scrapping Article 370 has fueled a fresh round of speculation about the actor tying up with the BJP as he prepares to take a formal plunge in politics.

Rajinikanth, the 68-year-old actor who commands a demi-god status among millions of his fans transcending geographical boundaries, has announced his intention to launch a political party and contest the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu as and when they are held— the legislature’s tenure will end in May 2021.

Ever since Rajinikanth proclaimed that he would practice “spiritual politics”, he has been billed as an ally of the BJP, which is struggling to get a foothold in the state hegemonized by the Dravidian majors DMK and AIADMK, and several of his comments – be it putting his weight behind the police during the 2018 Thoothukudi firing or ridiculing the Third Front that hardly took off or effusive praise of Modi’s leadership – were interpreted as an indication of his closeness with the BJP.

The latest round of speculation on Rajinikanth and the BJP coming together for the Assembly elections began on Sunday when the actor hailed Modi and Shah as “Arjuna-Krishna”. He went onto praise Shah for his speech in Parliament on scrapping of Article 370 and hailed the latest decision by the BJP government vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir at a function to release a book written by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.

Rajinikanth’s name did not figure in the invitation, but he was on the dais and spoke for a few minutes, utilising the occasion to praise the Modi-Shah duo on Kashmir. The BJP is currently in an alliance with the AIADMK, but the saffron party has been openly courting Rajinikanth at every opportunity and the actor is very much part of its “mega plan” to breach the Dravidian fort.

Though functionaries of Rajini Makkal Mandram, a pre-cursor to the party, refused to comment on the development, Tamilaruvi Manian, who is advising the actor, said Rajinikanth will contest the Assembly elections without fail.

“He will launch his party much before the Assembly elections are announced in Tamil Nadu. There shall be no doubt about it. Whether he will ally with the BJP or contest alone is a decision to be taken and announced only by Rajinikanth,” Manian told DH.

Manian, a Congressman for a long time, said he sided with Rajinikanth only to ensure that the Dravidian majors are shown the door in Tamil Nadu.

“I have several disagreements with the BJP. But I would still stand by Rajinikanth even if he takes decisions that are not ideologically acceptable to me because of my goal to see the two parties out of power,” he said.

Prof Ramu Manivannan, Head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration with the University of Madras, said Rajinikanth was already a “fellow traveller with the BJP for all practical purposes.”

“Unless he (Rajinikanth) sees prospect of him being part of the ruling coalition or dispensation, I don’t think he will take the political plunge. For Rajinikanth, politics is not being in Opposition. It is being in power or being part of the dispensation that is in power. I don’t think he is ready to sit in the Opposition,” Manivannan told DH.

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