Perhaps he sensed the challenges ahead that the days of film stars like MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa ruling the silver screen to becoming the Chief Minister of the film-obsessed state of Tamil Nadu are well over and that the present-day The political environment is dominated by professional full time politicians.
Laxman Venkat Kuchi- Shattering their delusions of greatness, it seems that two of Tamil cinema’s oldest and contemporary superstars, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, have decided to scale down their political ambitions. Both these superstar politicians have realized that politics is really a tough game and it is beyond their capabilities to fathom everything in its black ocean.
Rajinikanth has spent more than three decades at the pinnacle of stardom and ruled the hearts of his fans across the world, but he has understood that he is not made for the ups and downs of politics. Rajinikanth, popularly known as Rajni, decided to back out at the last minute after launching a political party with the tacit support of the BJP, which is strong in terms of resources.
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Perhaps he sensed the challenges ahead that the days of film stars like MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa ruling the silver screen to becoming the Chief Minister of the film-obsessed state of Tamil Nadu are well over and that the present-day The political environment is dominated by professional full time politicians. At the end of his illustrious film career, he jumped into the political arena without connecting with the people. At the expense of her numerous admirers and the BJP which is fully supporting her, Rajni saw little opportunity for herself and chose the exit route in the political arena. The political party he founded was disbanded and Rajinikanth returned to films. It was a wise decision as his recent film turned out to be a blockbuster.
Though Rajni’s staunch fans as well as BJP workers floated rumors of a change of heart, the superstar himself cited personal reasons and health issues to stay away from politics and elections.
But his contemporary, the highly respected and talented superstar Kamal Haasan, refuses to accept the declining popularity of film stars as politicians in Tamil Nadu and sticks to his real-life foray into politics. Even though it was Rajni who was expected to join politics for more than two decades as her occasional cryptic statements fueled such rumours. However, it is Kamal Haasan who followed through on his announcements of joining politics by forming a party and contesting elections. His political party Makkal Nidhi Maiyam (MNM) did not win a single seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2021 assembly elections and garnered barely 2 per cent votes, but he has made it clear that he is in for the long haul in politics.
Before entering politics, Kamal made a customary rant about corruption, misgovernance and all the problems plaguing the people of the state and promised to bring about a new change in politics. But immediately he accepted the things for which he had criticized the established political parties. Kamal talked about corruption, casteism and dynasty in politics and how the two Dravidian parties were the root cause of the downfall of Tamil Nadu and its people. He was also critical of both the national parties Congress and BJP.
But the practical politician in Kamal Haasan has now woken up and is ready to go ahead with the same political forces that he used to mock before entering politics. Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan has now offered his unconditional support to the Congress candidate for the Erode East Assembly bypoll. Apart from this, he has indicated to join the DMK-led coalition before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
It is easy to see why Kamal has taken a U-turn on his political journey and has started forging alliances with the powerful Dravidian political force in the state which can guarantee him political mileage. It could be a Rajya Sabha seat in return for transferring its vote share to the DMK-led alliance. The DMK had won a thumping majority in the 2021 assembly elections, but in many seats the difference between the DMK winning candidate and the second-placed AIADMK candidate was very small. The DMK is welcoming every vote to consolidate the anti-AIADMK and anti-BJP votes and is ready to rope in Kamal, who is ideologically opposed to the Hindutva brigade, in this regard.
When asked by the media about his change of heart towards Congress and DMK, Kamal said that ‘there is no such thing as compromise when it comes to people. I am centrist. Ideology should not be an obstacle in the service of the people. His talk and recently being seen walking with Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Delhi fueled discussions about Kamal joining the Congress. In fact, Kamal spoke in Tamil while addressing a public meeting at the Red Fort during the yatra. This gave the Congress an opportunity to take a dig at the BJP’s obsession with promoting Hindi.
Kamal said, ‘It is our responsibility to regain the lost ethos of our India. This Connect India campaign is a journey which is beyond politics. On the Erode by-election, the MNM founder said that it is a time of national importance. “We should fight for a common cause and join hands against communal forces,” he said.
The Erode East constituency fell vacant after the death of Congress MLA E Thirumahan Evra. The Congress has fielded Thirumahan’s father and veteran leader EVKS Elangovan, who had sought Kamal’s support a few days ago. Elangovan is also the grandson of rationalist leader late Periyar.
Kamal Haasan’s support is a big deal for the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance to win this seat. The main opposition AIADMK has been rocked by an infighting between chief Edappadi Palanisamy and expelled leader O Panneerselvam and both have said they will field candidates in the polls. The BJP had projected itself as a strong opposition, but the decision of the EPS faction to contest on this seat has ruined its plans.
This by-election will be the first time that actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan is supporting a candidate of another party in an election as the MNM went it alone in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and 2021 state assembly elections. The MNM secured 9,000 votes in the Erode Assembly in 2021, and this could be a significant help for the Congress candidate in a close contest.
MNM’s plan to support Congress in this by-election is very important. The MNM debuted in 2018 as an alternative to the state’s Dravidian parties DMK and AIADMK, but the party has not been able to manage its own situation. In such a situation, the recent move may affect the much-hyped independent image of the party, but it may help in promoting plans to gain a foothold in the ruling coalition and strengthen its position. Kamal had secured around four per cent votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the DMK-led front would find it useful.
The move closer to the DMK alliance is an indication that Kamal realizes the current limits to the political ambitions of film stars. The days of film stars who used to lick the dust of the villains of the political world in the election battle, now the movie lovers have fought in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Kamal can play a role in cutting maximum votes and cannot win any seat in the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections on his own. His claim of being successful in becoming the X-Factor in Tamil Nadu has remained only a hope.
Kamal may still be successful in terms of popularity among the masses or political acumen, but nowhere close to MGR or Jayalalithaa because they were involved in politics for a long time even when they were doing films. Neither Kamal nor Rajni have any experience of politics or social service for a long time and they wanted to enter politics after the end of their film careers. In the mid-sixties when MGR and the very popular scriptwriter Karunanidhi entered politics or when NT Rama Rao had not entered politics in any sense. Although today’s political situation is very different since then, he took on the grand old party and ousted the Congress from power within just nine months.
Now let’s talk about the recent times. There are many things for the two Tamil film superstars to learn from the experience of Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi. Chiru, as he is fondly called in Andhra Pradesh, is older than Rajni in the Telugu-speaking state, and in 2008, a year before elections in the state, he launched his political outfit Praja Rajyam Party and projected himself as a potential chief minister. But unlike his films, his new experiment proved to be a big flop. His party contested 276 out of 296 seats. Out of the 296 seats he contested, his party lost on 276. Besides, he had to bear the humiliation of losing his own caste-dominated seat in the Palakollu constituency.
Chiru then returned to films and his decision proved to be a wise one as his latest film ‘Godfather’ turned out to be a blockbuster. Of these two superstar politicians, Rajinikanth has studied Chiru’s political career more closely, and perhaps preferred to stay away from it as politics was far ahead of his stardom.
Bharat Bhushan, political commentator and author of ‘Telangana The State of Affairs’, says, ‘Whether it is Chiranjeevi then or now his brother Pawan Kalyan, actors like him are nothing but puppets who can divide votes. He is neither interested, nor he is capable of becoming and says that he wants to become the Chief Minister. The ground reality is that the current political situation in Tamil Nadu does not guarantee success in politics for new entrants and relative political novices at that.
Ramu Manivannan, a former professor at Madras University, believes that the contemporary political climate is very different from when MGR became the face of the AIADMK and named Jayalalithaa as his political successor. He says, ‘Apart from this, cinema used to be a tool of social churning and change in those times, but it is not so in today’s time. That’s why the appeal of stars in politics is decreasing.
Even Vijayakanth had created a political base with eight per cent vote bank. He won 29 seats to become the leader of the opposition in the state along with Jayalalithaa. Even brought the DMK to the third position. But the AIADMK leader defeated him in the next election and he could not win a single seat.
However, it is worth noting that Vijayakanth worked hard in politics for more than five years before he tasted electoral success. Professor Manivannan believes, ‘Vijayakanth’s rise and rapid fall down the graph contains lessons for superstars.’
In such a situation, perhaps Rajinikanth has taken the right decision. On the other hand, Kamal is also ‘fixing’ his political ambitions and he is apparently ready to play another role in return for his political move, even if it is a Rajya Sabha seat.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author only. The views and facts given in this article do not represent the stand of News9.)
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