“Andavan Solaran, Arunachalam seiran (God commands, Arunachalam acts on it).”
When Rajinikanth spoke to his fans on Monday morning, 15 May 2017, this punch dialogue from his 1997 superhit Arunchalam must have been at the back of his mind. Realising the fluid political climate in Tamil Nadu has been leading to speculation about the Superstar taking a political plunge, he almost shut the door on the political world — albeit with a caveat, saying: “My life is in the hands of God”. The Superstar meant that should God knock on his door and ask him to step into politics, he would be willing to. Those who heard the 16-minute long speech, were certain Rajini is testing the waters.
“Andavan Solaran, Rajinikanth seiran” is by far, the most ambigiously clear answer to “Will Rajini enter politics?”, easily the question most asked in India, after “Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?”
“I am a tool in the hands of God and he is using me to do his bidding. He is using me as an actor now so I am working as an actor now. Tomorrow, whatever he decides. But I will always perform the duty that he bestows on me. So do not feel disappointed if I don’t enter politics,” said Rajinikanth, making it clear that it would need a Hand of God for him to score a political goal.
On the face of it, Rajinikanth’s reluctance to embrace politics would be good news to established political warlords but it would disappoint his fans who were looking to him doing an MGR and a Jayalalithaa. But it was obvious from the tone and tenor of his address that he does not hold politicians in very high esteem.
“I don’t support any political party,” Rajinikanth said emphatically, also regretting his “Even God will not save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa and AIADMK are voted back to power” statement of 1996. That thumbs down to Jayalalithaa ensured her defeat that year and with that started the “Will he, won’t he” speculation on Rajinikanth.
The DMK would be embarrassed to hear Rajini regretting that he had earlier “supported a party”, calling his decision “a political accident”. His reference was to the 1996 assembly election where he extended support to the DMK-TMC alliance, helping it sweep the polls. “My fans even helped this party win,” he said. Though Rajini had rued his harsh words after Jayalalithaa passed away in December last year, this is the first time he is making a larger point, expressing unhappiness over the events it led to.
“My name has been dragged into politics for the past two decades. I am pushed to clarify during every election that I am not affiliated to any political party,” he said. Rajinikanth made no bones about his displeasure over how his name was misused by politicians and fans alike to make money. “In subsequent elections, these people claimed that I was supporting a political party, just so they could make money,” he added, without taking any names.
The most recent incident of this kind occurred when Gangai Amaran, the BJP candidate in the RK Nagar byelection (which was rescinded by the Election Commission after evidence of cash for votes surfaced) met Rajini at his residence and used the photograph of the two hugging each other, to suggest the actor supported him. A miffed Rajini tweeted that he was not supporting any candidate in the bypoll.
But just when his fans were digesting the actor’s rebuff to the political arena, Rajini did a “Idhu eppadi irukku (How is it?)”, a hit dialogue from the Rajini-Kamal Haasan-Sridevi starrer 16 Vayathinile. Elaborating on a hypothetical situation where he does enter politics, Rajini went on to list out his set of conditions.
“If there is a situation where I have to enter politics, I will never let such people (who are interested in politics for money) even come near me,” he said. Is this a Tamil remake of Narendra Modi’s “Na khaaonga, na khaane doonga“? This implies Rajini’s emphasis on clean politics, which may be too Utopian given the money power-driven elections Tamil Nadu sees.
The actor has often been attacked for backing out in the face of criticism, of not being thick-skinned enough, a must for a politician. A recent instance was Rajinikanth choosing to opt out of the trip to Jaffna after the likes of Vaiko opposed the trip. Rajini chose the platform to rebut that impression clarifying that he thought “wisely” before taking the decision — his choice of words again reflecting his disgust with the crop of public representatives.
“If you step into the water and later realise that there are crocodiles in it, you should not brave them and refuse to step out of the water. Such blind courage will take you nowhere,” he said.
This basically indicated that Rajini was not the kind to take opposition head on. He clearly hates confrontations of any kind and would prefer to sidestep them. Already actor-turned-politician Sarath Kumar has announced that he will oppose Rajinikanth should he decided to don a political veshti.
Rajini also has made his lack of interest in any of the existing political parties evident. That again won’t be music to the BJP’s ears, that has been trying to woo him for a long time. But should Rajini think God wills him to have a political way, the BJP will be first in the queue to meet him with a party application form.
Will Rajinikanth be successful as a politician? The jury is out on that given that there does exist a political vacuum in Tamil Nadu. But is the actor best suited to aim for the top job or will he end up like a Chiranjeevi, who has gone back to Tollywood? Rajini’s views on the most burning issues aren’t known, and unlike Kamal Haasan, who does not shy away from articulating his viewpoint on contentious subjects, he is a recluse. Yes, he enjoys enormous goodwill and political parties will salivate at the prospect of converting that into votes.
This week, Rajinikanth will pose for photographs with at least 5,000 fans. But has his speech put a firm full stop on speculation over his political avatar? No. On the contrary, people think that yet again he has not foreclosed the option.
For the moment, all Rajinikanth has done is to announce that all queries on his political role may be forwarded to God.