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What Rajini's entry means for TN politics

By R Rajagopalan
July 01, 2017 11:04 IST
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The BJP will be the obvious gainer while the DMK stands to lose a major chunk of its vote bank, says R Rajagopalan.

Now that superstar Rajinikanth has announced that he will indeed be joining politics, it would be interesting to see who will be affected by his decision and in which way.

It is clear that after the two rival factions of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supported the National Democratic Alliance's presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind, bonhomie has developed between them and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Leaders of both the factions -- of Chief Minister E Palaniswami and his predecessor O Panneerselvam -- have been visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, looking for the Centre to intervene to resolve the AIADMK's internal feud.

However, the income tax and Central Bureau of Investigation raids on AIADMK leaders have also raised some suspicion.

The BJP will now concentrate on Tamil Nadu, having made inroads, especially after Rajinikanth’s decision to enter active politics.

However, a clearer picture of Tamil Nadu’s politics will emerge only after the presidential polls.

At this point in time, these are some of the emerging trends in the state.

1) Modi as saviour of AIADMK leaders

For the past six months, meetings between Modi and AIADMK senior leaders have increased. What does it indicate? Is the AIADMK looking for guidance to run the affairs of the state and also for the future of the party?

Their frequent meetings have brought peace to the EPS camp. He is now in control of the AIADMK government.

The BJP utilised this to secure the AIADMK’s support for Kovind. With 134 MLAs and 50 MPs, the AIADMK has four per cent of the total electoral college votes. It is also the third largest party in the Lok Sabha. How can the Centre ignore this?

2) Rajini’s entry has made DMK jittery

Rajinikanth’s announcement to launch a political outfit has sent shockwaves within the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

The timing of Rajini’s entry is very crucial. DMK working president M K Stalin was emerging as an undisputed leader of the party and he had even organised a mega event on the 94th birthday of his father and party patron M Karunanidhi, which brought together on stage Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and the Trinamool Congress to. A euphoria about the DMK was at its peak and Stalin, it seemed, was the emerging star.

But, Rajini’s entry has certainly affected the DMK, and damaged whatever plans it may have drawn up to topple the state government.

Also, Nitish Kumar’s address in Hindi on Karunanidhi’s birthday was not received well by the audience.

Moreover, the Chennai meeting was called by the DMK to ensure that there was a common presidential candidate put up by the Opposition against the NDA nominee.

But Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav avoided being seen with Nitish in Chennai in the first week of June itself. And the later turn of events have brought about a clear division between Lalu and Nitish.

But Stalin did not foresee this.

On the other hand, the AIADMK government has got some breathing space, thanks to the BJP’s support and Rajini’s decision.

Of late, the DMK had been trying to bring down the Palaniswami government, using the sting operations on members of the two factions of the AIADMK conducted by an English news channel.

But now, the DMK has begun to concentrate on Rajini more than on AIADMK, because it realised that the actor will most certainly eat into its vote bank.

The DMK is a cadre-based party. It has organisational strength in remote corners of Tamil Nadu.

However, Rajinikanth’s fan clubs have some 25,000 to 30,000-strong vote bank in each of the assembly constituencies, which will certainly damage the DMK’s plans for registering a thumping victory in the assembly elections.

That is the reason why the DMK is jittery over Rajinikanth’s entry into politics.

Once the AIADMK split following former chief minister Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016, the DMK, especially Stalin, presumed that their chances of making political capital from the crisis are bright. But that seems to have failed. And one should appreciate the AIADMK leaders for this.

In the past six months, not one AIADMK leader or member has crossed over to the DMK.

The AIADMK is basically an anti-Karunanidhi party, and Stalin shouldn’t have expected its MLAs to cross over.

Adding to the DMK's woes was the release on bail of AIADMK deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran from prison. With this the DMK’s hopes of overthrowing the Palaniswami government dimmed.

3) Stability of AIADMK government comes at a price

BJP leaders have asked the AIADMK factions to sit together and arrive at a solution to regroup themselves. The BJP is the chief gainer from this entire drama, as it has managed to secure major votes for its presidential candidate from both the factions.

Now, the BJP is keen that Dinakaran and Palaniswami should meet and sort out their internal problems, including issues like Thevar and Gownder domination of the AIADMK.

Whichever way one looks at it, what is indisputable is that the BJP has gained an entry in the state. And with Modi’s popularity, if the BJP brings the AIADMK factions together and gets the state government to last its full term, it would be seen favourably by the party cadres.

And apart from saving the government, it will also have stopped the gains made by the DMK.

Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

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