YES TO ELECTIONS: Rajinikanth says he is ready and willing to fight next assembly polls in TN


CHENNAI: Matinee idol Rajinikanth has said he is ready and willing to enter the poll fray as and when the assembly elections are announced in Tamil Nadu. The last assembly polls were held in May, 2016 and the next assembly polls would be in 2021. But there is a possibility of an early election if the ruling AIADMK failed to make a major mark in the present Lok Sabha polls as also to the byelections to 22 assembly seats. 

If so, the Palaniswamy government is likely to collapse under the weight of inner party wranglings and leg-pulling. The DMK is seen faring well in the campaign field in this round of polls.
A decision would be taken after the counting of votes set for May 23, Rajinikanth told the media here. Rajinikant has been toying with the idea of forming a party and fighting the polls to run government in the state, but the issue dragged for many years. His aim now is to fight the next assembly polls whenever it takes place. The situation seems ideal. Two stalwarts of Tamil Nadu politics, M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa, representing DMK and AIADMK respectively, have passed away in recent times. 

While the DMK is being ably led by Karunanidhi’s son M Stalin, under a leadership succession plan put in place by the deceased leader, this is not the case with the AIADMK. Leadership struggle erupted after Jayalalithaa’s demise a few months after she returned as CM, and her aide VK Shashikala staked claim for party leadership and CM post. Senior leader O Panneerselvam did not approve of this, and split the party by taking help of another senior leader, E Palaniswamy, who ultimately took the CM post. 

Pannerselvam, now with Palaniswamy against whom too he had rebelled once, recently faced allegations of major corruption, further denting the image of the AIADMK. 

Meanwhile, influential leader Shashikala is in jail in Bangalore, serving a term for a disproportionate assets case she was involved in alongside Jayalalithaa. Since the verdict was passed only after Jayalalithaa’s demise, only Shashikala was put in jail. Jayalalithaa had earlier been put in jail in connection with corruption allegations, during which period, she remote-controlled matters from jail via Pannerselvam, who was made temporary CM. Before death, she had not named a successor for leadership of the AIADMK or of the government, complicating matters. 

Sixtyeight year old Rajinikanth announced his entry to politics in 2017, when he also formed a political outfit, Rajini Makkal Mantram. Chances are that the present government will not last for long. 
Of the total 22 vacant assembly seats, byelections take place for 18, the AIADMK MLAs of which had been disqualified following a revolt they led against the CM, and at the behest of Shashikala’s nephew TTV Dinakaran. Dinakaran is heading the breakaway AIADMK faction, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam. Byelections will also be held for four more seats – one of them held by deceased Karunanidhi, and the three others held by deceased MLAs.
The assembly seat position in Tamil Nadu does not give comfort to CM Palaniswamy. In the 235-member assembly, the AIADMK has 113 members, but the show is on because of the vacancy in 22 seats. Once the elections to these seats are done, the minimum E Palaniswamy and O Pannerselvam require to carry on is 118 members. Another headache for the two is the shifting of loyalty by three AIADMK legislators to the side of Dinakaran. DMK has 97 seats in the assembly. Dinakaran has put up rebel candidates in over 30 constituencies, giving more headache to the AIADMK.
The Makkal Neethi Mayyam of another top actor, Kamal Haasan, is also waiting in the wings to fight the Assembly polls. IHN-NN

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