AN AGENCY in Bengaluru is helping prepare superstar Rajinikanth’s political plunge, including studying the voting patterns in Tamil Nadu and the agendas he could pursue to appeal to voters. In meetings he held with well-wishers and friends last week, the star indicated he would be launching an outfit of his own, which could align with the BJP in the 2019 elections. Rajinikanth reportedly said that his speech on May 19, giving the clearest hint of his political intentions, was perhaps a little hasty.
The BJP has been wooing the star and has extended him an invite to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. Close aides of the star said the BJP has also offered him help in launching his party. They also said Rajinikanth and his advisers are looking at inducting prominent political faces from other parties to jumpstart his outfit. One of the names being considered reportedly is Ma Foi Pandiarajan, former school education minister of the AIADMK who switched over to the O Panneerselvam camp against V K Sasikala in February 2017 but has strained relations with OPS now.
Sidelined DMK leader S Jagathrakshakan, a former two-time MP who served as minister under the UPA government, is another name on Rajinikanth’s list. “There are other potential names who may join us, including a senior AIADMK leader from Chennai and senior Congress leader Karate Thiagarajan,” a source said.
Asked about reports of him joining Rajinikanth, Thiagarajan said while he was holding a key post in the Congress, he would support the star’s outfit. “I know him for the past 30 years and am closely associated with his fan associations,” he said. According to an aide who is a part of Rajinikanth’s inner circle, “The star is also in constant touch with BJP leaders in Delhi. Thuglak editor (and RSS ideologue) S Gurumurthy is mentoring him.”
Rajinikanth’s team is looking at these names to add political heft as they estimate his vote base to be around 10 per cent, putting him in almost the same bracket as Captain Vijayakanth of the DMDK. In 2005, while Rajinikanth still debated joining politics, Vijayakanth raced past him and launched his party that garnered a vote share of 8 per cent in the 2006 polls. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Vijayakanth’s vote share had grown, to nearly 10 per cent, but dropped to 5 per cent when he joined the NDA camp for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The Rajinikanth aide, who coordinates his district-level fan associations, said the star knows that his popularity may not be enough. “Most of his fans are middle-aged or in their 50s. He remains unsure of his influence among the youth as well as Muslim followers as he fears that joining or aligning with the BJP will antagonise them. However, he is keen to fill the vacuum left by J Jayalalithaa,” the aide said.
Thiagarajan also believes Rajinikanth should act with caution regarding the BJP. “Speculation about an alliance with the BJP has emerged out of his friendship with Modi. He is also close to Congress leaders like P Chidambaram.” Meanwhile, fresh speculation has started as Rajinikanth begins shooting his new film Kaala this week. The talk is this could be the launch pad for his political entry.