February 15, 2020
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Stage Fright?

Rajnikant's volte-face takes the wind out of the MGR Front's sails

Stage Fright?
IN pure filmi terms, it was like a movie which didn't live beyond the muhurat . Tamil superstar Rajnikant, who wasbeing projected by the emerging Congress-led MGR Front as the only person capable of taking on the AIADMK and Jayalalitha, dropped a bombshell on March 5. He announced that he was pulling out of the Front because he was disillusioned with the Congress high command's dithering over the alliance question in Tamil Nadu.

However, some political observers feel that Rajnikant, who has built up quite a reputation for playing guessing games—first hinting that he would join politics and then backing out—was only looking for an excuse. The actor did confess that he had lost patience. He told his fans that he was so fed up with politics that he had opted out of it, at least for the time being. With characteristic ambiguity, he first told fans that he had quit politics and then partially backtracked, saying: "I will not campaign for others. But if and when I enter politics I will campaign on my own. I will go to the people." It was typical Rajnikant doublespeak and no one was amused, at least not his fans who have been waiting for the day their hero would enter politics.

The MGR Front, which had been wooingthe filmstar, comprises the late MGR's fans and five dismissed AIADMK ministers who decided to team up with the Congress, with Rajnikant as the Front's campaigner-in-chief. Now with the superstar washing his hands of it, the Front has virtually lost whatever sting it had.

Sources close to the star say it was the possible Congress alliance with the AIADMK which gave him cold feet. They note he was perturbed by a statement made by Janardhan Poojary, AICC general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu, that a revival of an alliance with the AIADMK could'nt be ruled out. Congress sources in Madras say the party high command could'nt come to terms with Rajnikant's condition that the Jayalalitha government should be dismissed before he entered politics.

Rajnikant's exit has hit local Congress men the worst. If party sources are to be believed, TNCC President Kumari Anandan and the CLP leader S.R. Balasubra maniam have rushed to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister in this regard. While few Congressmen still believe that the actor can be persuaded to change his mind, sources close to Rajnikant say that he won't do so.

 Political observers were aware for quite some time that Rajnikant's promise to "save Tamil Nadu from the AIADMK" was a hollow one. The Rajnikant factor in state politics did not go beyond one widely publicised press conference and a flurry of posters put up by his fans. Even those keen on cashing in on his popularity, like former AIADMK minister R.M. Veerappan, the Congress and the MGR ADMK, lost hope last December when even after talking to the Prime Minister and meeting senior Congress leader G.K. Moopanar, Rajnikant had not made up his mind. But the fleeting possibility that he would campaign for the Front still existed.

Now even those hopes have been dashed. Rajnikant has appealed to all political parties to refrain from using his name in banners and cut-outs. He has also asked his fans not to "waste money" on posters.

  Though his exit from politics did not come as a surprise to those politicians who were banking on translating his popularity into votes, Rajnikant's March 5 announcement has put the Congress in a dilemma over the question of an alliance with the AIADMK. Local Congressmen agree that the party has to align with one of the Dravidian parties—the AIADMK or the DMK—if it is to make any headway in the polls. But the party high command has not reached a decision yet. There is strong resentment at the state level against any electoral understanding with the AIADMK, but then the DMK, which is perceived to be pro-LTTE, is also not seen as a possible ally.

With Rajnikant, at least for the time being, having pulled out of the picture, those who planned to cash in on the Rajni factor may have to do some rethinking. But who will the fans of the superstar vote for? Rajnikant has not quite pronounced his last words on the forthcoming elections. But he has promised that on the eve of the polls he will advise them on which party they should vote for. Well, for his floundering fans, Big Brother still seems to be shining the guiding light. 

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