You need a special qualification to be a successful politician in Tamil Nadu. You have to be a part of Tamil cinema and as history suggests, you cannot win unless you are one of them.
Right from the days of CN Annadurai who scripted screenplays in his initial days to this day, Tamil actors form the core of Dravidian politics. Almost every politician in Tamil Nadu has a connection with cinema in some or the other form.
The Dravidian movement started in the early 20th century, and has been dominating Tamil politics for almost five decades. Surprisingly, since 1967 till date, no other party or alliance except the Dravidian ones could make a headway to the government in this southernmost state of India. And more interestingly, 5 out of 7 chief ministers from Dravidian parties have been actively associated with cinema.
Ironically, most of the top leaders of this movement were not typical Dravidians and their only major qualification was that they were a part of Tamil Cinema. MG Ramachandran (Sri Lanka born Malayalee), Jayaram Jayalalitha (Mysore born Brahmin) and Muthuvel Karunanidhi (A Telugu by birth) are main examples. Mr Periyar EV Ramaswamy had no idea that the movement which he is creating in 1925 for the Dravidian people will be ruled totally by Non- Dravidian people in the future.
As the legacy must continue and we see the induction of another Non-Tamilian actor in the mainstream politics- Mr Sivaji Rao Gaikwad. A Marathi actor popularly known as Rajinikanth or Thalaivar by the local people is the new god of Tamil politics.
Politics is not new for Rajinikanth, he had been indirectly influencing it for almost three decades. There is a story of Rajinikanth’s Magic: In 1995, he declared support to the Indian National Congress after a short meeting with Mr PV Narsimha Rao. It was due to his alignment with Congress that the opinion polls suggested a sweeping victory for the party in over 130 seats. This was predicted despite the fact that INC was wiped off from the state since the influx of Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu in 1967. However, the Congress committed a major mistake and declared their support to the ruling AIADMK for an alliance which Rajinikanth did not like. Soon Thalaivar withdrew his support and declared his support to the DMK- Tamil Manila Congress alliance in 1996 polls. The alliance had a very poor predictability for winning but after the elections, results were shocking.
The DMK-TMC alliance which had just 3 seats in the previous assembly election won over 221 seats while ruling INC-AIADMK Alliance was squeezed to just 4 seats. Not only this, in the parliamentary elections held the same year, DMK-TMC alliance bagged all 39 seats of Tamil Nadu. Such was the magic of Thalaivar in Tamil politics.
Rajinikanth had been influencing the politics since then. He had been raising voice for social-cultural causes and maintained a clear distance from the mainstream politics. However, now that Thalaivar is roaring in the political arena of Tamil Nadu, it is a serious, very serious concern for the current politicians.
His entry in politics has come at a moment when Tamil Nadu is suffering from a leadership crisis and the local public is looking for a ray of light. J. Jayalalitha is no longer there in the scene and her successors are busy fighting among themselves. M Karunanidhi is no longer active in the politics and his family is fighting corruption and a serious identity crisis in Tamil Nadu. Other smaller parties have been able to influence only a small fraction of local Tamilians and leading National Parties have no exitance in the Dravidian state.
This action of Rajinikanth is a well-calculated decision which came at a right time and is going to turn the tables in Tamil politics. At this point in time, there is a vacuum in Tamil politics and the common public is fed up with daily in-fighting among the politicians. They are looking for a new leader, and with the kind of support and respect he receives from all classes of the Tamil population, Thalaivar is unstoppable for anyone. The God of Tamil cinema is going to be the God of Tamilian politics too.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).