Superstar Rajinikanth has decided to cast his net in politics, and one of the national political parties reportedly seeking to encash on this move is the Bharatiya Janata Party. While elections to the Legislative Assembly in Tamil Nadu may not be held in the near future, the polls are only a few months away in Karnataka, and the BJP would like to use the popularity of Mr. Rajinikanth in the election campaign in the State where he has his roots.
Indications are that feelers have been sent across to the veteran film star to accept an association with the BJP and that the campaign in Karnataka is as much important for the latter as an entry across Tamil Nadu which it desires. The BJP here is grappling for solutions to constitute itself into a formidable unit to penetrate and regain power from the Congress.
President of the BJP Amit Shah was in Bengaluru over the New Year weekend to ostensibly fine tune the party’s strategy for the forthcoming elections . It should be noted that differences within the State unit of the BJP continue to this day although it is not being aired in public like what used to be the case just about a few months ago. Many of the BJP leaders here have been given a role but some of them who have been assigned key roles are reportedly staying away from their prescribed work and this in itself can be viewed as an expression of dissent. Mr. Shah is believed to have issued stern instructions to the party rank and file to fall in line with the directions. During his brief visit, lasting not more than a few hours, he held discussions with most of the leaders, including party MPs and Union Ministers from the State. He will be again visiting the State shortly to take stock of the developments.
The Karnataka unit of the Congress believes that even if the BJP is successful in enlisting the support of Mr. Rajinikanth, it should not make any difference to the election battle, given what it describes as the limited role that he can play. The popularity of Mr. Rajinikanth can at best be in the regions dominated by the Tamil speaking population — Bengaluru, Mysuru, Kolar, and Raichur. And should it happen, the Congress too is planning to have some popular film stars to counter such a move.
The Janata Dal (Secular), which is in good shape in the southern districts, is also not very much concerned on the possible influence that Mr. Rajinikanth could yield, should he decide to campaign for the BJP. The JD(S) has commenced its election campaign and has also selected candidates for a large number of the constituencies. The primary focus of the party is to establish a direct rapport with the people and work at the grassroots level. While the BJP has done exceedingly well in most Legislative Assembly elections after it came to power at the Centre in 2014, the winning combination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Shah may find the going difficult in Karnataka, given the intra-party differences within the State BJP. The efforts to bring about a rapprochement between the various factions is still to yield the desired results. A role for Mr. Rajinikanth can emerge only after the internal squabbles are settled.
(The writer is Resident Representative, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Bengaluru)