The functionaries of Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM) were overjoyed when actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth or Thalaivar’, as he is fondly called, finally announced his political debut. After all, despite Rajinikanth’s dilemma to enter politics lasting years, the indefatigable members had continued to do all the groundwork needed for the launch of the party, which included setting up booth committees across the state.
RMM was launched in 2018 as a precursor to Rajinikanth’s political plunge, and members who were part of the All India Rajini Rasigar Mandram (fan associations) are enrolled in it.
On December 3, Rajinikanth announced that he would be launching a political party in January 2021 and contesting in the upcoming assembly election.
But the RMM members were soon in for a disappointment after Rajinikanth picked Arjuna Murthy, the former Intellectual cell head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Gandhi Makkal Iyakkam leader Tamilaruvi Manian as his party’s chief coordinator and supervisor, respectively.
RMM district secretary from southern Tamil Nadu, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We waited for this one announcement (launch of the party) from Thalaivar all these years. We called our friends and relatives to express our happiness. We were surprised to see Arjuna Murthy being appointed at the top-level. We know Tamilaruvi Manian but Arjuna Murthy’s name was never discussed in our meetings and many of the members don’t even know him. But we believe and obey our Thalaivar. He knows what to do,” he said.
Another senior functionary from RMM in the Cuddalore district said the members at the lower rungs feel the party high command could have appointed someone familiar so that campaigning would have been easier. “Members feel Thalaivar could have waited for some time and once the party is settled he could have made the announcement about party functionaries or appointed someone like Thiagarajan (Karate Thiagarajan, former Chennai Mayor) who had been supporting our Thalaivar from the very beginning. I won’t say the members are disappointed, even if they are, they won’t show or let that impact the work they do for mandram,” he said.
Political experts feel Arjuna Murthy’s appointment could impact the minority vote bank where Rajinikanth enjoys a sizable fan base. They believe if Rajinikanth creates an additional post and appoints someone who will appeal to both members and the public, then the controversy surrounding the appointment of the former BJP leader will resolve to some extent. They added that many political parties in the past have appointed people even from their rival camp to top post in their party.
In March, during the press meet, Rajinikanth said he had informed the RMM district secretaries that being in the fan club or mandram alone won’t guarantee them a top position in his party. He said honest members who are deprived of opportunities from other parties will be welcomed into his party.
Sundara Babu, the branch secretary of Maduravoyal RMM, said they are more focused on doing the preparatory works for the election and believe their leader will guide them on the right path. “Our Thalaivar is our leader. He knows whom to appoint and how it will benefit the party. Every party will have some problems and since the opposition parties are scared of Thalaivar, they are blowing this out of proportion. All our members are happy with Thalaivar’s decision, we will work hard to make our leader’s dream come true,” he said.
Rajinikanth on Wednesday convened a meeting with RMM functionaries, including Arjuna Murthy and Tamilaruvi Manian, in Kodambakkam to discuss the strategies for the upcoming state assembly election.
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