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Mystery over Rajinikanth’s political debut, experts say he’ll float new party

The mystery surrounding Rajinikanth’s political debut is growing in hero-worshipped Tamil politics ever since speculation swirled that the BJP is wooing the star to gain a toehold in this southern state.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2017 08:45 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Rajinikanth,Rajinikanth's political debut,Rajinilkanth politics
Rajinikanth at the music release of Kochadaiiyaan in Chennai. (PTI File Photo)

Rajinikanth can get rid of his shadow. So goes the joke. But if he actually does, he will be following in the footsteps of Tamil Nadu’s past superstars such as MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa who made a successful transition from acting to politics.

The 66-year-old former bus conductor, born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, is taking tentative steps in playing a role he never played before despite the wishes of his legions of fans — a real-life politician in a state where politics and films are intertwined.

The mystery surrounding his political debut is growing in hero-worshipped Tamil politics ever since speculation swirled that the BJP is wooing the star to gain a toehold in this southern state.

Besides, he is expected to fill the political vacuum that the death of yesteryear matinée idol and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa created last December.

The suspense is not if but when Rajinikanth will enter politics. If sources close to him are to be believed, he will announce a new outfit, and pull good, incorrupt people to his side.

Among those counselling Rajinikanth is Tughlak editor, chartered accountant and right-wing ideologue S Gurumurthy. He declared in a recent television interview that the star will join politics with a brand new party.

But critics point to Rajinikanth’s political inexperience and his apparent reluctance to take a stand on issues beguiling the state such as the Cauvery water-sharing discord with Karnataka, ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils, or Hindi, the language the state has opposed for long.

No wonder, BJP leader and state-mate Subramanian Swamy declared him unfit to join politics.

Ramu Manivannan, a professor at Madras University, has a similar opinion.

“Rajinikanth is more of a 14-reel leader than a real leader. Once in the political arena, he will find the ground reality hitting him very badly ... he is not MGR and he is hollow and has carefully built his film career.” But the teacher clarified this is his independent opinion.

Much the same was said about Jayalalithaa when she jumped from the silver screen to the heat and dust of electoral politics. The demure Jaya morphed from being MGR’s shadow to become everyone’s charismatic Amma.

And much like her, or even more, Rajinikanth has a fan following across India and abroad.

But such clubs may not readily translate into political support. Political analyst Bernard D Sami of Loyola College said: “His fans come from different parties and the moment politics comes up, they may go their own way.”

Those backing Rajinikanth dismiss such “misgivings”. They believe his supporters will remain with him, and grow, and his alleged political inexperience can be circumvented through an alliance with a political party.

The superstar is shooting for his next, Kaala. Rajinikanth fans expect his political thriller before the film’s release.

First Published: Jun 26, 2017 08:45 IST