by June 25, 2018 0 comments

THE REEL KAALA VERSUS REAL RAJINIKANTHThalaiva’s political ideology seems to be far removed from that of the character he portrays in his recent film, Kaala. Can he fill the void left by the death of AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa, asks Kumar Chellappan

Yatha raja tatha praja (As is the king, so are the subjects) is an ancient Indian saying, which quite substantiates the current situation in Tamil Nadu. Jayalalithaa, the supreme leader of the ruling AIADMK, breathed her last almost two years ago, and since then, the State has been in a state of turmoil and uncertainty. Despite the presence of major political parties, there is undeniably a leadership vacuum in the State. Amid the bigwigs, such as the AIADMK and DMK, the emergence of filmstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan in the political arena can be construed by some as a ray of hope.

The assessment by Tamil Nadu’s political pundits is that the 35 per cent vote held by the united AIADMK would get split and this will help the DMK recapture power. But will this materialise? That is where Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan become relevant in the political discourse. Rajinikanth had announced his political ambitions on the last day of 2017 when he told his fans that he would soon launch a political outfit. It has been more than six months, but the actor has not revealed the name of his party. But his rival Kamal Haasan announced the name of his party (Makkal Neethi Maiyam, Tamil for People’s Justice Party) and is touring the State, soliciting public support.

Who will win this race and who will make it to Fort Saint George (Tamil Nadu’s Secretariat in Chennai) is the issue being hotly debated now. Rajinikanth would soon launch his outfit and party programmes, says Tamilaruvi Manian, a former Congress leader-turned-activist, who is a close confidante of the actor.

Who is the leader Tamil Nadu is waiting for? Could Rajinikanth fill the vacuum created by the departure of Jayalalithaa, who was known as a charismatic leader despite the corruption charges against her? It is at this juncture that Kaala was released recently — the first after Rajinikanth announced his political entry last year. Rajinikanth’s fans expected him to make some political statements through this movie, but the star has not lived up to their expectations. He was parroting the script penned by

Pa Ranjith, the director. What Rajinikanth tells in the movie is totally against what he says in real life. He had visited Thoothukudi, where 14 people were killed in police firing during the anti-Sterlite Copper agitation in the last week of May 2018. Rajinikanth said that the agitation was hijacked by anti-social elements, who even assaulted the police in uniform, which resulted in firing and subsequent deaths. A popular English daily in Tamil Nadu supporting the CPI(M) had detailed the activities of the anti-social gang in Thoothukudi through the words of their own reporter.

While speaking to reporters on his return to Chennai, Rajinikanth reiterated his stance that the police had resorted to firing to quell the riots by anti-social elements. He further stated that the Jallikattu agitation in 2017 was masterminded by anti-national and anti-social elements. The Dravidian-dominated Tamil media came down heavily on the superstar and he was forced to tender an apology.

When HD Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Rajinikanth requested him to release the Cauvery waters due to Tamil Nadu. This resulted in Kannadigas in Karnataka demanding a ban on the release of Kaala in that State. The wavering shown by Rajinikanth under pressure does not augur well for his political innings. Compared to Kamal Haasan, who is a better actor, Rajinikanth, an action hero, has created a lot of goodwill among his fans. People like his frankness and the downtrodden section consider him as one among them because of his down-to-earth image. He is an antithesis to the conventional film hero and has maintained a reasonably good image.

The Kannada-born Tamil superstar was seen as the representative of the downtrodden classes in Tamil Nadu till he made it known that politics was his next battlefield. People for whom the actor was a demi-God started questioning his locus standi in Tamil Nadu politics. For the first time since he entered filmdom some four decades ago, his domicile status and his status as a Tamilian were questioned by the Tamil chauvinist political parties as well as the pro-Leftist political commentators. “What is his opinion about reservation for the Dalits? What is his view and opinion about Cauvery water dispute,” asked Ramu Manivannan, a political commentator.

The Left, Tamil chauvinists, and the caste-based parties saw red in the news that Rajinikanth is being advised and counselled by S Gurumurthy, a widely respected chartered accountant-turned-columnist and writer. If the comments in the social media groups in Tamil Nadu are any indication, the Dravidians, Left, the Church, and the Islamic extremists are totally against Gurumurthy. For the Periyarists (who are the followers of EV Ramasamy Naicker, founder of the Dravida Kazhakam), Gurumurthy is a persona non grata in Tamil Nadu. This is mainly due to his Brahmin origin. All political parties  in Tamil Nadu are against Brahmins for fear of losing the vote of the Backward and Most Backward Communities. The Brahmins, which constitute hardly two per cent of the Tamil Nadu population, are considered Aryans, while the BCs, MBCs are the Dravidians. Though scientific research has proved that the Aryan-Dravidian theory itself is bunkum, Tamil Nadu politicians have not accepted it, and the hate campaign continues unabated.

Ramasamy Naicker himself was a casteist  for whom the interests of the backward communities were of paramount interest. “This is proved by the fact that the attacks on Dalits by the intermediate castes continue unabated in spite of the five decades of Dravidian rule. Will the DMK and AIADMK dare to field a Dalit from a general assembly or parliament constituency in the State? For the Dravidian parties, the Dalits are mere vote banks,” said L Murugan, member, National Commission for Scheduled Caste.

Gurumurthy is of the view that the announcement by Rajinikanth that he would launch his political outfit is going to be the tectonic shift Tamil Nadu is waiting for. “In 1967, the DMK defeated the Congress and emerged as the ruling party. This marked the Dravidianisation of Tamil Nadu politics. The dismissal of MGR from the DMK and the launching of the AIADMK was yet another shift in the State’s politics. The AIADMK won because of the anti-DMK votes. Now that the AIADMK itself is getting disintegrated, Rajinikanth could walk away with all the anti-DMK and anti-AIADMK votes,” said Gurumurthy.

Haasan — who describes himself as Ulaga Nayagan (global hero) — is the number one showman in the Tamil film industry. What ails his political mission is his inability to convey to the people his ambitions and dreams. He is not communicative, though his dialogue delivery in films stands out. There is no clarity in his thought or words. The only exemplary fact about his political mission is his secular credentials and his passion for liberalised life. Haasan has given an assurance that he would not tie up with the BJP under any circumstances.

His personal life may come as a handicap because of his frequent hunger for greener pastures in real life. The Ulaga Nayagan, who is on the wrong side of 60s, has had many real life escapades — Vani Ganapathy, Sarika, Gowthamy, the list is lengthy. Recently, Gowthamy publicly complained that she had not been paid a single penny for the work she did for Haasan as an actress and a costume designer. The circumstances under which Sarika left the Chennai residence of Haasan is still shrouded in mystery. But these incidents need not come in the way of his political journey. Tamil Nadu’s people had voted for Karunanidhi despite his romantic interludes with many beauties.

This is where Rajinikanth could steal a march on Haasan. For the first time in Tamil Nadu, an aspiring politician has asked his fans and followers to love their families, parents, wives, and children. “Take care of your family members. Ensure that your parents, wives, and children are well looked after. That’s is your top priority. Politics should come  only after this,” Rajinikanth told his followers on December 31, 2017.

Manian says this has been noted by women. “Women outnumber men in Tamil Nadu. They play a significant role in decision making. That’s why I am confident of Rajinikanth’s success,” said Manian. But N Kalyanasundaram, veteran scribe who worked with both Kamaraj and GK Moopanar, points out that times have changed in Tamil Nadu and both Rajinikanth and Haasan are doomed to end up as failures. “No political parties except the BJP has announced the possibility of aligning with Rajinikanth. All fringe elements and caste parties are already aligned with the DMK. Haasan will end up playing second fiddle to the DMK. I hope Rajinikanth may end up as a non-starter,” he said.

He has reasons to believe so. Kaala could not meet the expectations of Thalaiva’s fans. Moreover, Haasan’s Vishwaroopam 2 is all set to hit the screens in August and could pose a threat to Kaala’s future. It is widely believed that Haasan would go to any extent to appease the Muslim community through this film because he had courted controversy when  the first part was released in 2013.

There is a leadership crisis in Tamil Nadu, though the Opposition DMK vehemently denies this in public. If they agree to this fact, it is like stating that MK Stalin, the DMK working president and the third son of party president M Karunanidhi by his second wife Dayalu Ammal, is not leadership material. Karunanidhi, the 95-year-old founder-leader of the DMK continues to be the party president, a role which he assumed in 1969 immediately after the demise of CN Annadurai, the then party chief and CM. Since then, Karunanidhi converted the DMK into a family enterprise. The next year marks the 50th anniversary of Karunanidhi’s presidency. Though he is confined to a wheelchair and not in a position to utter a single world, the atheist DMK cadre continues to describe him  as the God of all Tamil speaking people across the world and are waiting for the beginning of the celebrations of his golden jubilee as party chief.

Karunanidhi (a school dropout, who travelled ticketless in a train from his hometown of Thiruvarur to Chennai with cinema dreams in his eyes) expects to equal/surpass the world record held by Fidel Castro as the longest serving head of a political party. Castro, who became the general secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in 1961, continued in that position till 2011 before relinquishing the charge at the age of 85. The DMK cadre claims Karunanidhi is going strong even at the age of 95! The fact is that Dr Kalaignar (as he prefers all to address him) has eliminated all his potential rivals in the party since the day he assumed charge. Today in the DMK, there is no one to challenge the might of the K-clan. Those who fell by the wayside include MG Ramachandran, Vaiko, and Nedunchezhiyan.

MG Ramachandran, the poster boy of the DMK, was ousted from the party by Karunanidhi when he felt that the Malayalathan (one who hails from the land of Malayalam) would be a potential threat to his position. MGR launched the AIADMK in 1972, captured power in 1977, and ruled the State till his death in 1987. So long as MGR was around, Karunanidhi was in political wilderness. It was only after the death of MGR and because of the internal strife in the AIADMK that Karunanidhi could make a brief return to power in 1989. He ruled the State for two years before the then government at the Centre headed by S Chandrasekhar dismissed the government citing breakdown in law and order and also his suspected connections with the LTTE. Karunanidhi had to wait five more years to come back to power while Jayalalithaa, the chosen heir of MGR, ruled the State. Since then till 2011 it was Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi who were ruling the State alternately. The rhythm was broken by Jayalalithaa in 2016, who returned to power in the Assembly Elections, demolishing the dreams of Karunanidhi to become the CM for the sixth time. But the joy in the AIADMK camp was shortlived as Amma left to meet MGR within months of her re-election.

The AIADMK, which had a comfortable margin, has started disintegrating and at the time of writing this article, there were three factions of the party fighting for control and Amma’s legacy. There is the official AIADMK headed by CM Edappadi Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam; the AMMK (Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhakam) led by Jayalalithaa’s close aide VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran; and a third outfit, Anna Dravidar Kazhakam, launched by VK Dhivakaran, the Mannargudi-based brother of Sasikala.

The less said the better about other political parties in Tamil Nadu. The Indian National Congress, which ruled the State till 1967 before it was elbowed out by the DMK, is yet to recover from that defeat and continues to piggyback onto the DMK. “There are more leaders than cadre in the Tamil Nadu Congress; it is the bane of the party and there is no future for the party in the State,” sums up Kalyanasundaram.

The Left joins hands with either the DMK or AIADMK depending on the winning possibility of the Dravidian majors. The CPI-M and the CPI, which earlier aligned with Jayalalithaa, have switched their loyalties to the DMK camp following the demise of Amma. The rest are all caste-based fringe elements.

Stalin, the DMK’s working president, has proved that he is incapable of leading a major political outfit and getting the confidence of the people. His stand-off with his elder brother, MK Alagiri, is his major handicap. Till one of the siblings yields space to the other, the DMK is in for mutually assured destruction.

People of Tamil Nadu need a change, a change from the Dravidian and Congress style of politics. The people aspire for a change due to the recent developments in the State. To begin with, January 2017 saw the Marina Beach under siege by those demanding the Tamil Nadu Government enact a law to surmount the Supreme Court ban on  Jallikattu. More than 50 people have been gored to death since Jallikattu was resumed in 2017. Then there were agitations demanding the closure of the Hydro Carbon Extraction Project proposed by the ONGC at Neduvasal, and the protest against the Methane Gas Extraction Project at Mannargudi. All these projects have been put on hold because an axis of the Left-Maoists-Church-Islamist-Tamil chauvinists is resisting the moves of the Centre to bring industrialisation to Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, the methane and the hydro carbon projects were sanctioned by the DMK Government led by Karunanidhi, which ruled the State from 2006 to 2011.

There was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when educated Malayalis made a beeline to Chennai and Tiruchirappalli for livelihood. By 1990s, this phenomenon was ostensibly reversed. Hundreds of people from Tamil Nadu started migrating to Kerala in search of menial jobs for  basic survival. That’s the situation in Tamil Nadu, which also saw a serving CM sentenced to imprisonment with a fine of Rs 100 crore on charges of corruption.

While Rajinikanth and Haasan have made their political plans known, two prominent stars are still struggling to stay relevant in politics. Vijayakanth (the black MGR) and Sarathkumar had given high hopes when they launched their political parties. Vijayakanth, who was projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the Third Front, lost his deposit in the 2016 Assembly Elections. Not only that, the Third Front — a motley alliance of Vaiko’s MDMK, Thirumavalavan’s VCK, the Left, and the TMC revived by GK Vasan — was wiped out in the elections having failed to win at least one seat. Vaiko jumped fence and is working actively to make Stalin the Chief Minister.

Tamil Nadu voters are blessed with an array of chief ministerial candidates to choose from. Palaniswami, Dhinakaran, Stalin, Anbumani Ramadoss, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, and Vijayakanth. It is a buyer’s market and we have to wait for some more time to zero in on the winner.

Writer: Kumar Chellappan

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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