Editorial

Star war: on Kamal, Rajinikanth entering politics

All these years, the Tamil film industry had enough space for both Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, two stars with wide fan bases who could deliver one blockbuster after another. But Tamil Nadu’s political arena is likely to be too small for both of them. With their entry into politics, the actors will realise sooner than later that each can only succeed at the other’s expense. Both Mr. Rajinikanth and Mr. Haasan are vying to fill the same political space, the vacuum created by the death of Jayalalithaa. They are hoping to take over the AIADMK’s vote bank on the assumption that the party will not survive another election. While Mr. Haasan has indicated he is not averse to political alliances, Mr. Rajinikanth has insisted he will contest all 234 Assembly constituencies. Inevitably, the two will find themselves in opposite camps. Despite the age-related ill-health of its president M. Karunanidhi, the principal opposition party, the DMK, remains in serious contention for power with its organisational structure and cadre base. The actor-politicians will therefore have to fight for their share from the rest of the pie.

 

It is true that voters in Tamil Nadu are tired of the electoral choices before them, having voted in and out one of the two major Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK. A huge chunk of the AIADMK’s vote-bank is actually an anti-DMK vote-bank; the converse is true for a large section of the DMK’s vote-bank. Mr. Haasan, like Mr. Rajinikanth, can try to tap into this negative sentiment as a third alternative. Indeed, Vijayakanth, a contemporary of Mr. Rajinikanth and Mr. Haasan who joined politics in 2005, won more political supporters than he did film fans precisely because he offered an alternative to the two Dravidian parties. But he could not attain the critical mass needed to mount a serious challenge and ended up as a spoiler, not a king-maker. Unlike Mr. Rajinikanth, Mr. Haasan has been more forthright in expressing his political views, through tweets, press conferences, public speeches and columns. At the very least, Mr. Haasan appears willing to articulate a political programme with a vision and stated goals, in marked contrast to Mr. Rajinikanth who did not go beyond vague generalities while announcing his entry into politics. But Mr. Haasan will be mistaken if he assumes his star status in the film world will automatically open doors for him in politics. Winning over voters in different regions with different livelihood concerns and social identities is no easy task. His stardom may have earned him immediate attention, but he will need to mobilise people around their own interests if he wants to be a credible alternative. Otherwise, a Rajini-Kamal joust might be no more than an interesting sidelight in the next Assembly election.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2021 8:14:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/star-war-on-kamal-rajinikanth-entering-politics/article22828313.ece

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