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Star trek

Rajinikanth’s entry will create a buzz in Tamil Nadu politics. But he will need more than star power to win over voters

By: Editorial | Updated: December 5, 2020 9:00:41 am
The big question is whether Rajinikanth — and Kamal Hasan — can use their screen persona to win votes.

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth ended the suspense finally on Thursday and announced the launch of his political party next month. While the launch date is to be announced on December 31, the actor said it will be a “non-corrupt, honest, transparent and secular party with a spiritual politics”. Tamil Nadu is slated to hold assembly elections next year and the entry of the popular screen hero, whose entry into politics has been talked about for nearly three decades, will add variety and spice to the contest.

Rajinikanth has pitched himself as an alternative to the Dravidian parties that have dominated state politics for over 50 years. He has offered “spiritual politics” as a counter to the atheist ideology of the Dravidian movement. While the fan clubs are to form the cadre base of Rajinikanth’s outfit, he gave a hint of his political leanings by inducting a former president of the BJP state unit’s intellectual wing as the party coordinator. The BJP, a marginal player in state politics, has encouraged the actor’s electoral aspirations in spite of his tentative approach to politics. The party was quick to welcome Rajinikanth’s announcement and it will interesting to see how it engages with the actor in the coming days. While the BJP and the AIADMK had very recently clarified that the two parties will fight the assembly elections as allies, the former has indicated that it is keen to expand its footprint in the state. The BJP, which lacks a pan-state popular face, may prefer to ride with Rajinikanth, whose “spiritual politics” it cheers, as part of a third front. However, the dominance of the DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu politics has been such that third fronts — floated by national parties such as the Congress, BJP and the Communists in the past — have failed to make a difference in elections. But with the demise of former chief ministers, M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa, the political space is now short of tall leaders.

The big question is whether Rajinikanth — and Kamal Hasan — can use their screen persona to win votes. MGR and Jayalalithaa, political titans, were film stars, but they had worked in the DMK and AIADMK before emerging on their own and seeking office. But Rajinikanth has to hit the ground running — he needs to build a party and campaign hard to win over voters, all in about six months. He will also need to consolidate his fan base, whose political loyalties are divided among various parties.

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