Given that it has taken him more than 20 years to even openly talk about politics again, since he burnt his fingers in 1996, it is no surprise that Superstar Rajinikanth is a fan of gradualism. His possible jump into politics now seems closer than ever, and his verbal hints and suddenly energetic actions seem to indicate that his moment of political reckoning could be around the corner. His latest statement declaring himself as a ‘Pachchai Tamizhan’, a true-blood Tamil, seems to be hitting the right notes.
Speaking to his fans on Friday morning, Rajini addressed criticism about his true regional identity. “I am always asked if I am Tamizhan. I am 66 years old. I lived for 22 years in Karnataka and for 44 years in Tamil Nadu. I may have come here as a Marathi or Kannadiga. But you all gave me love, respect and fame. You made me a Tamizhan. I am a pachchai Tamizhan.”
One of the main criticisms which Rajini would have to face if and when he enters the political arena is that he is a Marathi by birth and a Kannadiga in his early life. In fact, Jayalalithaa herself had to face those questions throughout her political career, because of which she reiterated her identity as a Tamizhan often. And it is perhaps to root out this criticism at the very beginning, he has declared himself a true-blood Tamil. He has now ostensibly nipped in the bud, any future controversies around his parochial identity.
He also seemed to have a single enemy – the political system, not an individual. He praised Stalin for his administrative capabilities, said that Anbumani is a knowledgeable visionary with great ideas, Thirumavalavan was a good politician working to the benefit of Dalits and that Seeman was a great speaker with remarkable opinions – but the system, he said, was corrupt. We need to change the system, he said.
This strategy would be appropriate for a man with a ‘soft power’ image as he enters politics. If indeed he is trying to avoid open confrontation with leaders, it would only put them in the backfoot. His statement reminds one of his famous ‘Anbu Samrajyam’ line from Baasha, “mine is a different kingdom, a kingdom of affection.” He wants people to follow him with love, not hatred.
But Rajini also seems to have made it clear that it is not quite the time yet. He said, "I have my profession, my job. You have your jobs to return to. Go back to your places and do your job. We will come back when it’s time for the war.”
And when is it time for war? We have waited for several decades, perhaps we will have to wait a bit more. And it could be just around the corner, for those who have watched him for decades believe that this is the biggest hint that he has ever given indicating that he will join politics.