A week is a long time in politics – even if you are in its periphery as Rajinikanth has realized. A week back he was busy wrapping up the shoot of probably his last movie “Annathey” before taking that final and firm step into politics on December 31. But a brief spell of hospitalisation, which followed a corona outbreak in his film set, proved that even Rajinikanth is human and cannot afford to risk his life for an innings in politics.
He finally picked up the moral courage and honesty to declare that the medical scare he received at Hyderabad was nothing but a message from God – not to risk his life and that of others by plunging into politics. “If a film shoot can be disrupted due to his poor health what could be the costs if a similar thing happened after he had started his party, launched its election campaign and was in the midst of hectic electioneering?” was the honest query that the 70-year-old superstar posed to himself and his numerous fans.
And he came with the appropriate reply – he was shelving his political plans for the larger good of humanity (by not exposing them to the pandemic) and not wanting to waste the good intentions, hard work and money of those who would have invested in his politics. He did not want the uncertainty surrounding his health to affect the political ambitions of others. That is as honest a politician – even a wannabe politician – can get. The reasons he gave for not entering politics reflects his earnestness and transparency – rare qualities he wanted to inject into Tamil Nadu whose political theatre is actually filled with politicians who are better actors than most film actors are.
True the film hero was under tremendous pressure from the BJP to throw his hat into the political ring to deny a DMK comeback. His entry would have naturally attracted anti-DMK votes that would have gone to the AIADMK and the anti-AIADMK votes that otherwise would have swung towards the DMK. Rajinikanth would have started with a huge cushion of those anti-votes to begin with and whatever more he accrues by way of his personality, political outreach and chemistry with the public would have further boosted his kitty. “If Vijayakanth in 2006, by presenting himself as an alternative to the DMK and the AIADMK, and that too when Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa were around, could mop up nine per cent votes, Rajinikanth would have easily notched twice that many votes to begin with,” admitted a senior AIADMK leader.
It was this combination of arithmetic and chemistry that made both the DMK and AIADMK nervous, since he represented more than a passing third front, which traditionally had finished a distant third. Rajinikanth would have actually presented himself as the most credible alternative to the two DMKs and challenged their hegemony. In his absence the state will be back to its DMK versus AIADMK rigmarole with the two national parties - the Congress and the BJP - helplessly holding on to their skirt tails. By staying out, Rajinikanth has denied the BJP much needed political space it could have exploited at a future date. It has also robbed it of its bargaining clout with the AIADMK. The party now has to sail with the AIADMK and allies like the PMK, if its primary intent is to stop the DMK from recapturing power.
Both the DMK and AIADMK would breathe a sigh of relief now that the superstar challenge is passé and they could get back to their tried and trusted style of electoral politics of promising freebies, handing out cash doles and resorting to tasteless rhetoric at each other. For those who expected 2021 would be Rajinkanth’s year, 2020 made sure it was not to be.
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