Veteran Tamil actor, Rajinikanth, added expectations to years of suspense over his plan of forming a political party, by his tweet on Thursday , that he will launch the party in January . After his announcement in December 2017 that he would form a political party in time to contest in all 234 Assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu in 2021, his tweets, brief observations and curt replies to journalists’ queries, in the last three years, did not present any coherent view about his policies and programmes. On many occasions, he was seen to be a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) . On a few other occasions, he sought to distance himself from the party . Mr. Rajinikanth, who has been talking of “spiritual politics”, has, however, chosen to mention, in the tweet, secularism as one of the guiding principles of his new organisation. Regardless of the eventual outcome of Mr. Rajinikanth’s political project, his move has the potential of facilitating the emergence of a credible third force in the State, where all attempts, since 1977, have ended in failure. At a time when the composition of the coalitions headed by the two big parties, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is considered a settled matter, Mr. Rajinikanth’s entry might now provide greater room for smaller parties to negotiate into an alliance. Without doubt, there exists a vote share of 10% to 15%, which can be called independent of the influence of the two principal players, going by the data of votes secured by non-AIADMK and non-DMK formations in the last four decades. Mr. Rajinikanth may be tempted to corner the support of this vote bank, but this vote bank is not homogeneous, but one of diverse social, economic, and political composition.
Very much like M.G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, Mr. Rajinikanth is banking heavily on the intangible asset of charisma. Even some of his poorly made films have made money because of a huge fan following. But this is no guarantor of success in elections in Tamil Nadu. Also, Mr. Edappadi K. Palaniswami’s no-nonsense functioning, as Chief Minister, coupled with his relatively low profile, has helped the AIADMK recover some of the lost ground. The DMK’s M.K. Stalin passed his first major test, post-Karunanidhi, by registering a landslide victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in the State. Notwithstanding all the challenges that he may have to face, Mr. Rajinikanth, by stitching up the right combination of political forces and declaring adherence to long-cherished ideals of the State such as a development-oriented all-inclusive approach, welfarism and social justice, can possibly provide a stiff fight to the established players.