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Lotus blooms in Rajini's hint of water politics

February 18, 2019 20:00 IST

The Tamil superstar has appealed to the voters to look for those that are ready to solve Tamil Nadu’s recurring water problem. But as things stand, the BJP is the only party that has talked about the much-needed Godavari-Cauvery link, though only off and on.

The rest of them, including the two Dravidian majors, have not mentioned it in any serious way.

Rajini’s call may now force other political parties, including the DMK and the Congress, who are in alliance talks already, to come up with water proposals of their own in their poll manifesto.

In a way, this may be a ‘tactical victory’ for Rajinikanth, says N Sathiya Moorthy.

Even while declaring that he and his promised party won’t be ready to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and barring others from using his name and pictures in their campaign, Tamil cinema’s superstar Rajinikanth may have still hinted at support of sorts for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the choice of his preference for agenda points that his fans and followers should look up to while casting their vote.

The Sunday statement of the superstar, issued after a meeting of the office-bearers of the Rajini Makkal Mandram, or Rajini People’s Association appealed to the voters to look for those that are ready to solve Tamil Nadu’s recurring water problem.

 

As things stand, the BJP is the only party that has talked about the much-needed Godavari-Cauvery link, though only off and on. The rest of them, including the two Dravidian majors, namely the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the rival DMK, have not mentioned it in any serious way, though in recent weeks some leaders of the former have declared that they would undertake the job in the coming years.

With the BJP and the AIADMK now reportedly talking poll alliance, indications are that after Rajini’s declaration, the two may include some water points to their respective electoral manifesto.

In turn, Rajini’s call may now force other political parties, including the DMK and the Congress, who are in alliance talks already, to come up with water proposals of their own in their poll manifesto.

In a way, this may be a ‘tactical victory’ for Rajinikanth, ahead of his hoped-for launch of a political party before the state assembly polls due in 2021. However, after announcing his intention to enter direct politics but through a political party of his own, the superstar did say that he would be ready to face an election with a six-month’s notice.

This is not the first time that Rajinikanth is talking ‘water politics’. At the height of the Cauvery water protests across the state, in which the Tamil filmdom joined in, in a big way, he came under attack for staying aloof, with critics citing his Karnakata upbringing as a possible reason.

To prove his critics wrong, not only Rajinikanth made a splash of his future intentions on this score, but also committed a Rs 1 crore donation for taking up projects relating to water resources development and distribution in the state.

Off and on, he has since talked about water scarcity, especially with non-political friends and experts whom he began meeting after announcing his intention to enter active politics. However, he too is yet to roll out a specific manifesto or agenda, on this or any of the other public issues with which he may have genuine concerns, like many other concerned citizens but without his kind of charisma.

Independent of his current decision not to join the LS poll race, the Rajini camp too may have wanted to follow the electoral success of compatriot-turned-competitor in Kamalahassan.

Having floated the Makkal Needhi Maiyyam early on, Kamal is now believed to have hit a hard rock when it comes to finding popular support and/or poll allies.

Indications are that unlike established political parties, whose leaders still draw respectable to massive crowds for their rallies, Kamalahassan’s public appearances seem to have few takers now than when he used to be focussed only on his filmi career.

Definitely, Rajini’s camp followers would not want that kind of public response to the super-star as and when he comes up with his promised political party.

Though no one may want to count on it, the fact that Rajini’s recent movies, including the much-hyped techical marvel in Shankar’s 2.0 did not do as much as expected.

The fact was that 2.0 was screened in two formats –3-D and 2-D. According to market reports, where cinema halls were equipped for the former, it was a film-goer’s delight, not because of Rajini’s all-pervading presence, but mainly owing to the 3-D effect and other unmatched technical superiority not seen in Indian movies before.

In rural markets, where both fans and common viewers alike could have the 2.0 experience only in the conventional 2-D format, it did not have the same box-office impact.

Trade reports later said that though the box-office collections of 2.0 was impressive by Tamil cinema’s standards, it did match up to the national record set by Telugu two-part film, Bahubali -- possibly the only Indian movie to have been produced with a declaration of the film-maker’s intent to have it in two parts.

More importantly, trade reports indicated that while bringing in the moolah for those down the line, the producers might not have cleared as much profits as the investments and wait-period entailed.

If that is the story of the very successful and much talked-about 2.0, other Rajini movies, before and after the film, did even less business. To the political analyst, used especially to the charismatic electoral leaderships of breakaway AIADMK founder MGR and Jayalalithaa and even script-writers like DMK founder C N Annadurai and successor M Karunanidhi, the box-office is a reflection on Rajinikanth’s political popularity and electoral acceptance at the moment.

This apart, there was this real problem for Rajinikanth to identify with one or the other political parties now in the race. Friends of BJP had spread the social media rumour over the past year that he was out there to join hands with them for the LS polls, but the film man in the superstar could not hope to antagonise his fans and other film-goers from the ‘minority communities’, who are uncomfortable still with the party.

Likewise, the DMK rival of the ruling AIADMK and their allies have launched a tirade against the latter’s ‘corruption’, and the Modi government at the Centre shielding them, citing the ‘gutka scam’ and IT-ED raids on some incumbents ministers and their associates in the milieu.

Whether or not it is going to be the game-changer in the LS polls, the DMK-led Opposition campaign seems to have found certain traction beyond their cadres and traditional party-sympathetic voters. For Rajini to certify them as being ‘clean’ could hit his public image -- and the reflection could be felt even at the otherwise apolitical box-office.

Three, the DMK had groomed party’s current president M K Stalin for any top governmental position, including that of the chief minister. Cadres won’t accept anyone else, including Rajijikanth, even if they could well be his ardent fans otherwise.

In the AIADMK, where a leadership vacuum had emerged after Jayalalithaa’s death in end-2016, and over which there were a series of succession wars, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, has settled down since -- and may not want to be upstaged from inside or uprooted by a prospective ally, of all things.

This means, Rajinikanth has had little choice but to stay away, especially if his camp was clear that he could not give a ‘clean and effective government’ without being at the top. More so, when his fans would not approve of his playing second fiddle to anyone else, including veteran politicians.

N Sathiya Moorthy, veteran journalist and political analyst, is director, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter.

N Sathiya Moorthy
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