Speech draws praise and criticism alike

Actor Rajinikanth’s speech to his supporters on Friday, during which he made statements hinting at a potential foray into politics, was largely welcomed by political leaders in the State. However, it also came in for criticism from an unlikely source — the BJP, a party that expected the actor to be ideologically aligned to it.

“I am surprised that brother Rajinikanth has complimented some individuals responsible for corrupting the very system he wants to cleanse,” said the party’s state president Tamilisai Soundararajan.

Emphasising the efforts taken by BJP leader and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cleanse the political system, she noted that Mr. Rajinikanth did not mention BJP leaders by name, even as he praised State-based politicians. She also observed that his rhetoric against corruption was toned down when compared to his earlier speech.

‘New generation’

Expressing pessimism about the actor’s electoral prospects, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said, “There’s a new generation of very educated Tamilians who are assertive, who are of influence. They now want national politics to come to Tamil Nadu.”

Former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said, “If Rajinikanth were to enter politics, I would welcome it.”

He did, however, add that it was ultimately up to the people to welcome or reject him.

“If I were to respond in the way he talks, I would say, “magizhchi!” [happiness],” quipped DMK leader M.K. Stalin.

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president Su. Thirunavukkarasar, a long-time associate of Mr. Rajinikanth, said, “What does he mean by a ‘war’? He means work related to an election or a political party. He is talking about things that should be done at the time of an election. I think that is what he was talking about.”

VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan said, “His statements indicate that he is about to get involved in politics in a big way. This is someone who has been observing Tamil Nadu politics for over 40 years. We cannot see him merely as an actor; he has maintained good relationships with most senior politicians in Tamil Nadu. I think he believes that he can ensure that the prevailing unusual political environment turns to his advantage.”

Stating that Mr. Rajinikanth enjoys the goodwill of the people, TMC president G.K. Vasan said that no one would be able to prevent him from dipping his toe into politics.