Rajinikanth says no to politics, two days before he was expected to announce launch of his party

Published : December 29, 2020 16:35 IST

Rajinikanth talking to the media outside his home on December 3. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Much to the surprise of his supporters, the joy of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the main opposition party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and disappointment of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), “Superstar” Rajinikanth has announced that he will not start a political party as he had promised recently.

“It is with great regret that I announce that I will not be able to start a political party and come into politics…. To Rajini Makkal Mandram members, fans and people expecting me to start a political party, I had no intention to disappoint you. Kindly forgive me,” he said in a statement here today. “Without entering electoral politics, I will serve the people,” he added, two days after being discharged from hospital, where he was admitted for fluctuations in his blood pressure.

Rajinikanth had stated on December 3 that he would announce the launch of his party on December 31. His supporters had speculated he would launch it on January 17, the birthday of M.G. Ramachandran, former Chief Minister and the founder of the AIADMK. Some of them had even stated that Madurai would be the venue of the launch.

In a release here, Rajinikanth said that he had gone to Hyderabad on December 13 for the shooting of his next film Annaatthe, against the advice of doctors. “The unit had about 120 people. They took Covid tests each day, isolated themselves, wore face masks and shields and took all precautions. In spite of this, four from the crew tested positive. The shooting was immediately called off and everyone present there was tested, including me,” he said.

Though Rajinikanth isolated himself after this, he said that his blood pressure was fluctuating. “I should not have constant fluctuations in blood pressure because it would affect my transplanted kidney,” he said and added that this was the reason for his hospitalisation for three days from December 25.

Rajinikanth said that he thought this was a warning given to him by God. He said that if he started the party, his idea of governance could not be conducted through the press and social media platforms. “No one with political experience will deny this fact. I will have to meet people, attend meetings and go on campaigns,” he said and added that this would not be possible under the present conditions because of his health.

Rajinikanth, who first made waves in Tamil Nadu with a political statement in 1996 (“If Jayalalithaa comes back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu”), has since chosen to make political statements only when he had a problem with some political party or leader (see “The ‘chosen’ one"). In December 2017, he made his first firm move, stating that he was already in politics and that he would launch a party to contest the 2021 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections. A news leak in October, 2020, over his health, was an indication that he was not keen on entering politics because of the COVID pandemic. As late as November 2020, he was reluctant. On November 30, after he met his supporters too, Rajinikanth did not firm up his plans about launching the party. On that day, it appeared that Rajinikanth was taking a step back. A mere three days later, he made an announcement that he will announce the party on December 31.

After learning about the announcement from the media, S. Gurumurthy, a leader of Swadeshi Jagran Manch, who was the via media between the BJP and the actor, tweeted at 12.28 p.m: “After @rajinikanth health setback he told me about his decision. It was inevitable. But read the penultimate para of his statement saying without directly in politics he will serve the people of Tamil Nadu. In my assessment he will make a political impact in TN. Like in 1996.”

Both the ruling AIADMK and the main opposition DMK appear happy over this, for different reasons. A few leaders in the AIADMK believe that it is because of the presence of Rajinikanth in the fray that the BJP was not making a formal announcement endorsing Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamy as the chief ministerial candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The DMK is happy because Rajinikanth was a possible spoiler, like the Third Front (Makkkal Nala Koottani) was in 2016. In 2016, the Third Front took 5.1 per cent votes, which came in the way of the DMK’s victory. In 2021, Rajinikanth would have taken that role, given the fact that some surveys had put his popularity high. One such survey said that the star could take away up to 15 per cent votes.

G. Ramakrishnan, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) faulted the BJP for forcing Rajinikanth to enter politics. “The BJP, which tried to force Rajinikanth into its political games, has suffered a massive defeat.” Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam leader M.H. Jawahirullah said that his party welcomed Rajinikanth’s decision not to start a political party. “For some this decision of his will give sleepless nights. But it will give peace of mind to Rajini,” he added. Mohan Kumaramangalam, working president, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, tweeted: “Superstar will remain superstar.”

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