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January 14, 1998


Rajnikanth to support DMK-TMC again

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

The mood in the DMK-TMC camp is upbeat with Tamil cinema’s reigning superstar Rajnikanth openly backing the combine for the general election. With this, the DMK-TMC has got the cutting edge against the bank of ‘committed voters’ that the AIADMK has collected through its deftly-planned alliance.

‘As someone responsible in a small way for the formation of the DMK-TMC alliance on the eve of the 1996 poll, I want my fans and followers to vote for the same combine as it continues for this election as well,’ Rajnikanth said in a carefully-worded statement on Tuesday.

Greeting his fans and the Tamil population ‘that is more important to me than my own life’ (‘En coyirinum-melaana Thamizh-kudi makkale’), he said he had been forced to clarify his position and take a stand for this poll too, as his silence had become the subject of controversy.

Rajnikanth was said to be reluctant to come out in the open this time, for more than one reason. While his camp did not find any immediate necessity for him to run down the AIADMK, now that Jayalalitha was no longer chief minister, his fans were not exactly happy with the way they were treated by DMK officials at the lower-levels.

The AIADMK was also said to have pressurised him through Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and the BJP’s star-politician Shatrughan Sinha who are very friendly with the actor – if only to keep him out of the campaign.

Against this, both the DMK and TMC appealed to Rajnikanth to back them in public. Union Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidamabaram and Minister of State for Personnel S R Balasubramanian met the star in recent weeks. On the DMK's behalf, Madras Mayor M K Stalin, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son, has been in constant touch with Rajnikanth for over a year.

What turned the tables in the DMK-TMC combine's favour was the possibility of the AIADMK returning to power through the backdoor after securing the dismissal of the DMK regime, if the BJP formed a government at the Centre. Says an informed source: ‘'Rajnikanth is not against the BJP. If anything, he has been a friend of party president L K Advani for a couple of years now, and only wishes the party well. But the possibility of the AIADMK returning to power is another thing.’'

What provoked the Rajnikanth camp into action was the burst of bad mouthing against him from the AIADMK camp in recent months. His fans were irked when Jayalalitha told her cadres that the ‘superstar’ could not make any difference to the election this time.

AIADMK friendly newspapers have also been asking him why he looked the other way when the state witnessed bomb blasts and other forms of lawlessness under the DMK regime. This, when he had attacked the AIADMK government for the 'solitary blast’ at director Mani Rathnam's home during its tenure.

What finally made his fans force their demi-god to issue the statement on Pongal-eve was the bad-mouthing against him at the AIADMK’s Tirunelveli conference earlier this month. Participating at the kavi-mela, Manimozhi, editor of the party periodical, Namathu MGR, likened Rajnikanth to a frog. Adding insult to injury was Jayalalitha's honouring the 'poetess' at the end of the conference, though Manimozhi was pulled up subsequently. But the damage had been done.

Says the source: ‘'It would have been difficult for Rajnikanth to silence his fans now. And unless he took a political position, he could not have continued to rely on the political loyalty of his fans for long. Once he let them choose their political path, it would have been difficult for him to pull them out, whatever their personal, filmi loyalty.’'

With a fan following estimated at over five per cent of the state's voting population, Rajnikanth’s appeal can provide the DMK-TMC combine with a committed votebank of about 35 per cent, against the AIADMK's 30 per cent. Both Karunanidhi and TMC supremo G K Moopanar were quick to acknowledge this fact, and thanked him for his appeal without any loss of time on Tuesday.

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