Superstar Rajinikanth’s political plunge, capping years of suspense, may well be a defining moment in Tamil Nadu politics. The build-up to the final announcement at a gathering of frenzied fans in Chennai had all the trappings of a tantalizing script typical of his blockbusters. Like the punch dialogues in his movies that send the audience into raptures, the style icon has finally uttered the words that millions of his fans have been waiting to hear from him. Rajinikanth, seen as demi-God by legions of followers, unveiled his plan to launch a new political party, contest all the 234 Assembly seats and tour the entire state to build an army of selfless party guardians. In his own words, his political entry was a “compulsion of time” to cleanse the system and the three mantras of the new party would be “truth, work and growth.” The Thalaivar’s entry is bound to change the dynamics of Tamil Nadu politics forever. The timing could not have been more appropriate: political vacuum since the demise of Jayalalithaa, a weakened DMK due to the advancing age of its patriarch Karunanidhi and instability in the ruling AIADMK. The people in the state are yearning for political stability and corruption-free governance. More than the star power and fame, what Rajinikanth brings to the table is the extraordinary sense of humility, compassion and self-effacing simplicity; the qualities that endear him to the people and create a strong sense of trust. Because of this image of a do-gooder from a humble background and a simple man with spiritual orientation and no celebrity airs, Rajinikanth’s connect with the masses remains unmatched.
In a state where politics is inexorably linked to the tinsel glamour, producing icons like MG Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, the political positioning, policies and agenda of Rajinikanth will be keenly watched in the days ahead. The biggest challenge before him is to build a team that doesn’t come with the baggage of conventional politics and offer an alternative political agenda. Living up to his larger-than-life screen persona in the midst of real time politics and resisting the lure of electoral and power politics could be his toughest tasks. From bus conductor to steering the politics of a state, Rajinikanth’s life journey is the stuff that dreams are made of. And, it would be a tribute to the tenacity of India’s democracy if he gets a chance to guide the destiny of Tamil Nadu which showered him with love and affection despite him being a non-local. Like MGR and Jayalalithaa, he is also an outsider. Born Sivaji Rao Gaikwad, he is a Maharashtrian raised in Karnataka and worked as a bus conductor in Bangalore before taking Tamil cinema by storm.