On Monday, Tamil actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth made, at a private university in Chennai, his first political speech after launching his party. However, unlike the box office openings for his movies, Mr Rajinikanth’s first political speech lacked punch. His speech had political rhetoric and was assertive in parts — but that’s hardly enough to instil confidence in Rajinikanth the politician. He started his speech by apologising for the hoardings that had sprung up along the road to the venue, which was in violation of a Madras High Court order.
EDITORIALS Updated: Mar 07, 2018 11:07 IST
Much like his movies, in which the focus is on him (and not necessarily on a good script and screenplay), Mr Rajinikanth’s politics so far has been all about him; precious little has been said about his political plans. On December 31, when he announced that he would launch a political party, he said he would contest the next assembly polls, but did not specify whether he would contest the 2019 general elections. He is yet to elaborate on his political philosophy and has so far not revealed the name of his political outfit.
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On Monday, Mr Rajinikanth made a strong claim to be the inheritor of MGR’s legacy. The death of former chief minister, J Jayalalithaa, and the withdrawal of DMK chief, M Karunanidhi, from active politics have left a vacuum in Tamil Nadu, and Mr Rajinikanth is only one among the many staking a claim to it. The AIADMK rebel leader, TTV Dhinakaran, is banking on his political clout and Kamal Haasan on his image and focus on clean politics to fill that void. It is to be seen who will succeed.
Where he has an advantage over Mr Haasan is that the Superstar, as Mr Rajinikanth is referred to by his fans, has crafted an image — both onscreen and off — that can help project him as a son-of-the-soil politician. This might help gain some initial momentum. To sustain this, he will have to do more than just say that he will make a difference or will be a good leader.