Will Rajini ever throw his hat into the ring?

Rajinikanth also said Congress President Rahul Gandhi need not resign following the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha elections

On February 22, he visited Vijayakanth, founder of the DMDK, at a crucial time when the party was actively engaged in seat-sharing parleys with the AIADMK. But he told the media that they didn’t discuss a “single drop of politics”. It is to be noted that the actor in a statement on February 17, said, “people should vote for the party that is ready to solve the water problems of the state”. That was enough for right wing parties, mainly the BJP, which began fancying chances of winning his support. Many are of the opinion that it is the BJP that cajoled Rajinikanth to call on Vijayakanth, at a time when the BJP was trying to rope in the DMDK into the alliance led by the AIADMK.

This is not the first time Rajinikanth has made such a move during the election. The actor has the habit of making political statements or hinting at something political in the run-up to elections. He thinks that his words and deeds carry weight and can impact the outcome of the polls.

His political entry was the talk of the town since the 90s when he took on the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa. Their rivalry can be traced back to 1992 when Jaya was at the helm of affairs in the state. It was said that since both Jaya’s and Rajini’s residences were in Poes garden there were issues concerning the security of Jaya.  Rajinikanth’s fans were allegedly harassed by Jaya’s security guards whenever they came to see him.

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Also, whenever she plied back and forth to the Secretariat, traffic was halted which too was a bone of contention. The book The Name is Rajinikanth, an unauthorised biography of the actor by Gayathri Sreekanth, details this event. One day, Rajinikanth’s car was stopped near his residence. When he was told the reason he got irritated and stepped out of his car, walked up to the nearby lamp post and started smoking. That, in turn led to the congregation of people in the place which the policemen found very difficult to control. Subsequently, Rajinikanth was convinced to get into his car and allowed to leave.

Dhamu Pongiyannan’s doctoral thesis at the University of Adelaide, Cinematic charisma as a political gateway in South India: The Case of Tamil Nadu, talks about the history of acrimony that existed between Rajinikanth and Jaya. He talks about Rajinikanth going to meet Jayalalithaa at her Poes Garden house on his scooter, where he was made to feel small. Seeing her Poes Garden residence, Rajini promised himself that he would build his house in that area.

As things went from bad to worse, Rajinikanth uttered the most often repeated slogan of “If Jayalalithaa returns to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu’. He openly extended his support to DMK and TMC alliance in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. His words had such a strong impact, that AIADMK simply got routed with Jayalithaa herself losing the Bargur seat.

Later, Rajinikanth displayed his dislike for Jaya through films like Padayappa (1999), in which actress Ramya Krishnan played a negative role which people relate to Jaya.

But after Jayalalithaa stormed back to power in 2001, he patched up with her and went on to back her party in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. This came in the backdrop of of the fight with PMK founder Dr Ramadoss, who accused the actor of spoiling the Tamil culture. Consequently, the PMK cadres ransacked those theatres where Rajini’s latest flick Baba was screened.

Rewind to 2004: PMK was a part of the DMK-led alliance in the state and despite Rajini opposing the coalition, it went on to win all the 39 seat with the PMK itself romping home in all the five constituencies that it contested.

In 2014, the then PM hopeful Narendra Modi called on him which he termed as a “courtesy call.” He also has been meeting politicians without much ado.

On December 31, 2017 he declared that he would enter politics formally but made it clear that his aim was to occupy Fort St George and that he cared less for the Lok Sabha. Since then he hasn’t moved much on the political front indicating that that he has second thoughts about his political entry.

Going by his back and forth utterances and actions, it is anybody’s guess whether he would enter politics or not.

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