March 28, 2020
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While "megastar" Chiranjeevi from Telugu tinseltown, currently on a road show in Andhra Pradesh, might have prodded his fans into trying to get the Superstar to commit to a political role, Rajni is wary because he knows politics is like a snake pit

Chennai Corner

Kanimozhi's Political Tricks
Rajya Sabhja MP Kanimozhi's rather dramatic resignation on Wednesday was pure posturing. The fact that she gave her post-dated letter to daddy dearest (CM M Karunanidhi) and not the Rajya Sabha Chairman makes it clear that she is milking the story for all it is worth. Incidentally, all political parties here have been shedding crocodile tears for "human rights" violations in Sri Lanka with no concept of Delhi's foreign policy. But, by her action and the subsequent media play she got, Kanimozhi has proved that she is truly a chip of the old block. I hope M.K. Azhagiri, who has acquired the image of a muscle man, and M.K. Stalin, who is perceived as being too soft, are watching little sister for tips. 

And while on the subject, the faction-ridden Congress is critical of TNCC chief K.V. Thangabalu for allowing himself to get bamboozled into agreeing to withdraw Congress MPs from the UPA. First off, has Thangabalu forgotten history? I remember P. Chidambaram, currently the finance minister and the poster boy of the pink press, calling a press conference every week at his residence in upscale Nungambakkam 17 years ago to attack the DMK for sleeping with the LTTE. And some months later, in May 1991, the Congress' "beloved" former PM Rajiv Gandhi was killed in a ghastly bomb explosion by the LTTE. Since then, even if one makes allowances for the political opportunism that has now brought the Congress-DMK together, the Congress at least shows sensitivity towards their president Sonia Gandhi's feelings and makes suitable noises vis a vis the LTTE. Thus Thangabalu can expect the knives to be out for him for succumbing to the DMK. And to quote Subramiam Swamy, it is "stupid" to think Chidambaram will meekly fall in line with Thangabalu's commitment at the all-party meeting in Chennai especially when he is fire-fighting the financial tsunami that has hit India.

Is He Really Confused?
No one could have put it better. And it took a section of superstar Rajnikanth's legions of fans – he is believed to have 50,000 fan associations – to tell it like it is. Posters put in Madurai and Theni districts said: Thalaiva, neeyum kuzhambi, engalaiyum kuzhappaadhey (Leader, do not get confused and confuse us too). The fans were reacting to Rajni's statement this week saying firmly: "No one can force me to enter politics, but if I decide to enter politics, no one can stop me." While this is not the first time that Rajni's fans have wanted their beloved thalaiva to enter politics, this is the first time they have been proactive. The Rajini Rasigar Mandram (Rajni Fans Association) in Coimbatore even set up the Desiya Dravidar Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam and came up with a flag that had red, white and black bands with a blue star with Rajnikanth's smiling visage in the middle.

To be fair it was obvious there was one upmanship between his fan associations – Rajni Babu, president of the Mandram, in Coimbatore attributed wall posters seeking his removal to "underhand tricks" of four members who were not made office bearers – and Rajnikanth did not want to get in the middle of this mess. Secondly, despite, Kuselan delivering a dud at the box office, Rajni is the most bankable star in Tamil cinema. And currently, as he pointed out, he is very busy with the making of Shankar's Aendhiran (Robot) with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (by the way, she calls him "Rajni uncle"). 

The Superstar vs Flopstar Debate
While "megastar" Chiranjeevi from Telugu tinseltown, currently on a road show in Andhra Pradesh, might have prodded his fans into trying to get the Superstar to commit to a political role, Rajni is wary because he knows politics is like a snake pit. In 1996, he stuck his neck out, famously saying "If Jayalalitha comes to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu." His famous Poes Garden neighbour, known to harbour grudges, has not forgiven him for this although he tried to make amends in 2004 by saying his vote was for the BJP-AIADMK combine but told fans "I leave the decision to you." Since then Rajni has kept away from what his friend, the Big B, once called the "cesspool." 

But unlike Chiranjeevi, who displayed extraordinary naiveté when he launched Praja Rajyam by saying many of the issues that resonate with the AP electorate were "sensitive and need scientific study", Rajni is better informed. He also knows, stating his political proclivities gets his films in trouble as happened to Kuselan. So let's just say he knows which side of the bread is buttered and would prefer to be a superstar in cinema than a flopstar in politics.

Churches Get Security
Although it was a sacked watchman who vandalized a church in Annanagar recently, the Christian community in Chennai (6.1 per cent in 2004 according to one website) saw it as a reflection of a larger phenomenon that has gripped parts of India. They are very distressed at the attacks in Erode and Coimbatore. As one of them put it, "We have never felt like a minority here and have been brought up in a Hindu culture. So we are very upset at these attacks." The attacks in Orissa and Karnataka have also caused anxiety. At the same time, there is recognition that the government here moved immediately and nipped any further attacks in the bud. A meeting was held recently with the police commissioner in which Christian leaders expressed their fears. But, as ADGP (law and order) T. Rajendran says, "Groups like the Bajrang Dal do not have a strong presence in the state. In any case, the police have an eye on them."  The Chennai suburban police have increased security at more than 150 churches in the St Thomas Mount area alone. The protection is especially for wayside churches. Many church volunteers have also come forward to help the police maintain security. As one volunteer put it, "Our intention is to prevent rather than allow things to escalate so that political parties will jump in and benefit." Well said.

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