The Political battle field in Tamil Nadu — Rajini or Kamal?
Tamil Nadu has been seeing a flurry of activity in the political space. Two big superstars, Kamal and Rajini, announced their political ambitions and their desire to serve the people. Kamal launched a party and officially started work by announcing key party members. Rajini’s recent speech made vibrations atleast in the social media circles where people were pronouncing that he is the change agent who can catalyze transformation. Is the next election going to be a battle between the two? What will the old horses do? Who will win in the end?
The central premise of the argument put forth by Rajini and Kamal is that the established political parties didn’t do their jobs properly, especially the ones who are ruling the state. Most people would agree with this argument.This includes Seeman also as his ‘TN should be ruled by son of the soil’ never got any appeal with the people. In all the previous elections, his party lost deposits. With Karunanidhi out of active politics and no Jayalalitha, there is a clear vacuum. Who is better positioned to fill this vacuum?
Last week, Rajini made a fiery speech in a college function organized by his friend AC Shanmugam. What was refreshing for his supporters and fans was the fact that his speech had the assurance that was missing in his earlier ones. He sounded very confident. He reminded everyone that he will deliver pure politics and questioned people who are making fun of his political entry. He quoted MGR as his hero and assured that he can deliver MGR style governance. Many film personalities like directors P Vaasu and KS Ravikumar, producer Kalaipuli Thanu and even, actor Vijay’s father SA Chandrasekaran praised Rajini to the skies. After the speech was given, social media and news media were abuzz with Rajini’s speech.
I watched the speech and felt like watching a Rajini movie where he will challenge the establishment and status quo. I used to enjoy Rajni’s cine function speeches because there used to be humility and honesty. They both were missing in that speech. I remembered his Kabali movie’s opening day. The tickets were sold by theaters at exorbitant prices (Rs.1500) when the government prescribed ticket rates were Rs.120. His fans were complaining about how the producer sold the movie for a big deal and that the theaters were selling at 10X to recover their investment. I wonder why Rajini didn’t step in and ask his producers & theaters to honor the law. Where was his purity at that time?Why didn’t he raise his voice against the system? Why didn’t he give his voice for his fans? He said he did his job well as a cine star. I don’t agree with that argument. He colluded with the producer and theater to unfairly generate money against the law. When politicians do the same, it has a special term called ‘corruption’.
Rajini spoke about how MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha were great leaders and that he will follow in their foot steps. He also thumped the stage saying he will be able to deliver MGR style governance. Jayalalitha was convicted of corruption and Karunanidhi’s family is investigated in one of the biggest scams the country has ever seen. MGR’s period took corruption to new highs in Tamil Nadu. I am surprised that he was not inspired by Kakkan, Kamaraj and Gandhi as his role models for pure politics. Again, that also shows where his head is, in terms of future political alliances. His leaders and inspirations are corrupt and he himself was corrupt in his profession. How can he be a good leader?
The speech and the praises by fellow industry men reminded me of CM Karunanidhi’s(MK) self-praise functions. When MK was CM, once in a year there will be a ‘Paasa Thalaivanukku oru Paaraatu Vizha’ (A function to celebrate our loving leader) where cinema luminaries will be invited (includes Rajini and Kamal) who will praise him sky high and it will be broadcast in his family owned SUN TV. I saw Rajni’s recent function as a teaser to what will come in the future.
On the other hand, Kamal has been an ambassador to the Income Tax department and he has been appreciated as a honest citizen. His tweets (though hard to understand most of the time) all send a very positive message. His most recent tweet against H Raja’s threat, to eliminate the statue of Periyar, was a gem. In that tweet, he advised other leaders not to indulge in mud slinging and distinguished between worshiping idols versus practicing the values preached by the idols. In fact, he does the latter. He practices what he preaches.
Kamal also disappointed me when he announced his key party members. The members included Sripriya, Kameela Nasser, Gnanasambandan etc. I am not suggesting they are bad people. But what social service did they do? Without a service mindset, how did they suddenly become politicians? How does Kamal trust that these people will deliver the goods? What credibility do they bring? How different are they from the regular politicians? Kamal was a great actor and he devoted his life for cinema. He could argue that he couldn’t do social service because of his dedication to cinema and now will do the same for politics. That would be believable. But what about his key party members?
Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP came with a huge promise of weeding out corruption. Kejriwal’s impressive grass roots work, his movement against corruption and the support of public intellectuals like Yogendra Yadav, Mayank Gandhi and Prashant Bhushan gave the people of Delhi a huge promise. They got a resounding victory even after making a big mistake. But where is AAP now? While Kejriwal is incorruptible and his government did good work in education and healthcare, his party lost credibility with the people because of several key members leaving the party, infighting, corruption allegations, fake degrees etc. When someone promises clean politics and even if they fail by 10%, the opponents hold them to account for their high standards. On the other hand, the ones who were bad will suddenly become good even by making small adjustments. People’s memory is short and social media & news media have made politics all about headlines. Today, BJP and even Congress are much better poised to win the next elections in Delhi unless Kejriwal does some magic.
I expect a similar situation in Tamil Nadu also. Kamal Hassan may experience what Kejriwal experienced and except him, very few of the key party members that he identified may have the same intensity, integrity and courage. Once people come to power, they behave differently and we will see ugly to worst fights similar to what we see in AAP today. The real success of AAP is in making Congress and BJP talk about corruption and being very cautious about that aspect. Kamal could play a similar role in changing the way the parties operate in Tamil Nadu. His presence could nudge the DMKs, AIADMKs to pull up their socks and change themselves.
My prediction is that Kamal and Rajini may actually end up strengthening DMK and AIADMK. Shrewd and wily politicians like TTV will cleverly fill the ‘vacuum’ while DMK may continue to hold on to their vote banks. I suspect Rajini may end up with BJP and will aim to capture the AIADMK cadres who ‘miss’ a leader. He could end up being successful like MGR. Even then his success will largely be about his ascension to the CM post from a bus conductor than about serving the people. Kamal, on the other hand, may end up either like Vaiko or an activist because his principles will not allow him to join DMK or any other political party. His own party members will give him enough trouble later and he may be spending more time sorting out internal issues than with the people.
But, But…I’ll be happy if I am proven wrong.