Making a U-turn, superstar Rajinikanth on Tuesday announced he will not enter politics in view of his frail health, putting an end to his long-nurtured plans and describing his recent hospitalisation as a God's warning.
"Only I know the pain behind making this announcement," the 70 year-old actor said in a statement, two days before he was to spell out the contours of his party based on spiritual politics aimed at bringing a total change in the Dravidian heartland Tamil Nadu in the 2021 assembly elections.
His decision would 'disappoint' members of his Rajini Makkal Mandram, seen as a precursor forum of his political party, and the people, he said, asking them to forgive him.
"....I inform with great regret I am unable to come to politics by floating a political party. Only I know the pain behind making this announcement," he said.
Rajinikanth, however, said he will serve people in whatever ways he can without entering electoral politics.
His decision drew varied reactions with some saying it would affect the Bharatiya Janata Party while others, including fellow actor-politician Kamal Haasan, expressing disappointment.
The actor's move might just upset the BJP's plans to make a greater presence in the state with a possible alliance with him as his then proposed spiritual politics was seen as 'soft Hindutva,' by many political observers.
While the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam made little of the star's announcement Haasan expressed "slight disappointment" over his 'friend' backing away but insisted his health was of primary concrern.
After years of speculation, Rajinikanth had in 2017 said he would enter politics ahead of the 2021 assembly elections and field candidates in all 234 constituencies.
Earlier this month, the actor had said he will launch his party in January and disclose the specifics by December 31, after revealtions about his renal transplant in 2016 led to doubts about his fitness to take the political plunge.
The top star had then dramatically asserted he was even ready to risk his life for the people's welfare by foraying into politics, pitching for "change all, if not now never" in the state elections, the first after the demise of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi.
In his statement on Tuesday, Rajinikanth, discharged from a Hyderabad hospital two days ago after being treated for blood pressure fluctuations, expressed fears over those accompanying him facing "mental and economic" problems in due course over his possible health issues.
Rajinikanth indicated he did not want to sound chivalrous by saying he will join politics despite severe health concerns and that he did not want to make his supporter "a victim".
He recalled four crew members of his current venture Annatthe tested positive for coronavirus despite safety measures put in place and pointed out he had tested negative for the contagion, but suffered blood pressure fluctuations.
"Clinically, there should not be any fluctuation in my blood pressure as it would severely affect my transplanted kidney and therefore I was under medical observation for three days," he said.
"I see this as a warning given by God to me," he said and pointed out that the movie's producer, Kalanidhi Maran of Sun Pictures, had postponed the shoot, affecting many.
Also, confining his campaign virtually would not give the desired public 'resurgence' which he had mentioned in March this year, Rajinikanth said.
In physical meetings, he would have to meet lakhs of people, he said, adding "I had to be hospitalised for three days after being in a group of 120 and now a new strain of coronavirus has also emerged."
Though there may be a vaccine, he was, however, consuming "immuno suppressant", the actor said.
The actor's major brush with politics was in 1996 when he spoke out against the then AIADMK government led by late J Jayalalithaa with the DMK-TMC combine trumping the ruling party in the assembly elections.
Describing the Tamil people as "Gods", he urged them and his fans "who desire truth and honesty" besides being concerned about his health, "to kindly accept my decision."
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh idealogue S Gurumurthy, considered close to the actor, said Rajinikanth "will make a political impact on TN. Like in 1996."
AIADMK spokesperson RM Babu Murugavel recalled he had said in 2017 itself that the actor will not enter politics.
"Irrespective of his presence in the electoral field, the AIADMK will not be affected," he told PTI.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader and Lok Sabha member Thol Thirumavalavan said the actor's decision would only "affect the BJP and Sangh Parivar as they tried to gain mileage out of his fame."
"This is not mere speculation but everyone knows this," he said.
However, the BJP said it was banking only on "real superstar" Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose work would ensure a 'resounding victory' in the hustings next year.
Former state party chief Pon Radhakrishnan dismissed as "a figment of imagination" the speculations that Rajinis decision might affect the BJPs prospects.
"The BJP is dependent only on Narendra Modi and not on anyone," he said but added Rajinikanth could have come to politics.
Noted political observer 'Tharasu' Shyam opined the actor not starting a party will help the AIADMK-BJP combine in the elections.