CHENNAI: Superstar Rajinikanth, set on the road for launch of a party in Tamil Nadu to contest the May 2021 assembly polls, is sending confusing signals to the people by nominating a former BJP leader Arjuna Murthy as chief coordinator for works relating to party formation. Murthy was heading the BJP Intellectuals Cell, a post from which he resigned a few days ago.
Rajinikanth introduced the relatively less-known Murthy as his party’s chief coordinator, in Chennai on Thursday. This is seen as Rajini’s attempt to build bridges with the upper crusts of the society, including Brahmins, alongside his principal support from the backward communities.
The 69-year-old Rajinikanth is known to have a soft corner for the BJP. In 2004, he had openly stated he would vote for the BJP but said he would not ask his followers to do so. The BJP did not win any seat in that LS poll in TN. In 1996, he had backed the DMK-Tamil Manila Congress (TMC) alliance; which swept the polls. The actor announced his plan to form a political party in December 2017, a year after the demise of J Jayalalitha, but hesitated so far.
The exit of two towering personalities in state politics, namely AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha and DMK patriarch K Karunanidhi has been encouraging those like Rajinikanth and another actor Kamal Haasan to try their luck in politics.
However, how the Dravidian (non-Brahmin) sentiments will respond to Rajinikanth’s party formation plan and assigning of Murthy as the next-in-command for the new party is interesting to watch.
Rajinikanth is a Maratha, with mixed Marathi and Tamil ancestry based out of Belgaum in Karnataka. He was born and brought up in Bengaluru, where he worked as a bus conductor before entering the field of acting. He remains as the most versatile and popular actor in Tamil so far. Whether this will translate into votes in cinema=centric Tamil Nadu politics remains to be seen. Murthy hails from Dindugal, and had worked for a time with the DMK. He is having some family links with the Karunanidhi family by an inter-caste marriage, as per a some report.
The BJP still does not have much of a support in Tamil Nadu. It is seen by the wider Dravidian (BC) population as a party of the upper castes from North India. Dravidian parties have consistently opposed what they see as north-Indian overlordship through attempts at popularizing Hindi etc in Tamil Nadu, which they stoutly opposed all along. They believe in strengthening the Tamil pride.
It is in this context that the BJP is showing interest in grabbing power there through proxies like Rajinikanth. Deputy chief minister O Pannerselvam has stated that his party is willing to have an alliance with the Rajini party. This must be read with the fact that the AIADMK is already an ally of the BJP. Even in a post-poll scenario, in the event of a hung assembly and no party getting the majority to form a government, the Rajini party as also the party of Kamal Haasan can be the kingmakers and partners in government.
However, Rajinikanth is unlikely to share power with either of the two Dravidian parties, both being hugely corrupt. He is strongly against corruption in politics and public life.
Actor Kamal Haasan’s party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam, is also making serious preparations to enter the election fray in 2021 May. It will be backed mainly by his fans clubs spread across the state and it can also expect backing from the powerful Brahmin community in the state, which had backed Jayalalitha from behind all through her political career and chiefministership.
The fan clubs of Rajini, the Rajini Makkal Mandram number as high as one lakh in the state. A recent opinion survey found that he can, on his own, muster about 24 per cent of the votes in an assembly poll. However, the DMK is known to have a solid support base of over 30 per cent. Chances of Rajini creating a wave in his favour are strong. In such an event, his support can go up to 40 per cent, and the loser would be the AIDMK, rather than the DMK.
Rajinikanth has stated some time ago that he would not become chief minster and guide a government of his party from behind. It is here that Kamal Haasan sees an opportunity in having an electoral linkage with Rajinikanth. Together, their parties can form a post-poll alliance and run government. What is clear now is that the Tamil Nadu politics will be in for a deep churning in the coming months. –IHN-NN
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