Rajinikanth’s announcement to enter the fray in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections is an event that has the potential to transform Tamil Nadu’s political landscape. He could not have timed the entry better. Different factors make his entry an extraordinary development that can unsettle all parties and their calculations.
The absence of towering leaders Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, who dominated Tamil Nadu politics till a few years ago, marked a quality shift of elections from personality clashes into inter-party battles. Rajini’s advent reverses this trend as his personality towers over all others, thus re-introducing the personality factor in politics, with no one matching his stature to counter him.
Rajini is not just a mega star. He is seen as a genuine and clean person who wants to do good to the people of Tamil Nadu. Also, he is not interested in power, which is unusual in politics today. His exposition on spiritual politics fits him perfectly to oppose the anti-God and anti-Hindu DMK, of which he is likely to emerge as the principal challenger.
The stunning reception that Rajini’s announcement got is a manifestation of the longing of the people of Tamil Nadu for an alternative to both the DMK and the AIADMK.
‘NTR had lesser time to prepare for polls’
The recall has to go back to the 1973 Dindigul parliamentary poll, which brought about a shift and left a deep and continuing impact on Tamil Nadu. In the Dindigul by-election, the anti-DMK votes that routinely went to the Congress till then, were mopped up by the AIADMK. Similarly, anti-Congress votes drawn by the DMK till then, went to the AIADMK instead.
As a result, both parties lost and the AIADMK gained over and above the votes MGR Ramachandran would have got. The AIADMK got 50+% votes, while Congress and the DMK lost 10-12% and some 25% votes, respectively. This marked the ground level shift in TN politics where the national parties gradually and increasingly lost their votes to the AIADMK principally and to the DMK partly.
With both DMK and AIADMK being captained by unusually capable leaders till recently, the Dindigul trend continued with AIADMK being perceived as a semi-national party. Rajini’s entry is likely to cause the same disturbance that the Dindigul elections caused and changed TN politics. There is a question over whether Rajini has prepared his organisation for the polls.
Actually, his preparation is more than that of N T Rama Rao who had less time than Rajini after forming his party. The RMM has been around for more than three years and had reached some 37,000 polling booths with committees a year ago. The figure ought to have grown by now. His entry will undoubtedly cause a huge tectonic shift in Tamil Nadu politics.
The author is a commentator on political and economic affairs