The task at hand for Rajini is by no means easy, but given that a lot of thinking has gone into his political entry, his chances of becoming CM are good.
These are questions uppermost in the minds of the people of Tamilnadu. Everyone and her uncle have a view on this. Rajini fans believe the answers to both these questions are strongly in the affirmative. His political opponents, critics and Dr Swamy strongly disagree.
Let me share my views.
As has been demonstrated ever so many times in the past, superheroes do have a significant advantage if they enter Tamilnadu politics, but this advantage may not be decisive. Fan following may not necessarily lead to eventual electoral success, as we’ve seen in the case of Sivaji Ganesan, Vijayakanth, et al. MGR and Jayalalithaa have been exceptions.
Though both the main Dravidian parties, DMK and ADMK, were corrupt to the core, they had strong cadre base and well-oiled party machinery which ensured them slot among the top 2,,… till the demise of Jaya.
DMK is still strongly entrenched, Karunanidhi’s advanced age and unfavourable health notwithstanding. Most people won’t buy the acquittal judgment in the 2G Spectrum case; if they still vote for DMK, it is with full knowledge that it’s an extremely corrupt party. The only reason for voting for such a party is that they see no reasonable alternative.
BJP and Congress have the dubious advantage of offering the two main parties a share in power at the Centre
ADMK’s cadre base and party machinery are only partly intact. Jaya’s absence and inner party squabbles have shaken its foundations. Many of its supporters may not stay with any of its factions if a strong alternative emerges.
Vijayakanth’s DMDK, PMK, Congress, BJP, Left, and the several small parties are individually non-entities, though they could help tilt the balance in favour of either of the two main parties in a tight election. BJP and Congress have the dubious advantage of offering the two main parties a share in power at the Centre, and so have roles in TN politics disproportionate to their popularity.
Over the years, people have become disenchanted with the two main Dravidian parties and are looking for a good alternative, but they have not been willing to accept any of the other existing parties as the alternative. ADMK stands very much discredited now, and DMK to a lesser extent. Kamal and other actors are very unlikely to succeed even to the extent Vijayakanth has done.
Rajini’s political entry is happening in this backdrop. He is a shrewd person. He knows his strengths and weaknesses, which is the main reason he stayed away from politics when his chances of success in politics were very high, as long as two decades back; Cho has spoken extensively about it.
Rajini knows that people will have great expectations from his Government if he is elected to power. He knows that age and health may not be on his side, and so he may want to set the TN political system in order, and create an organization which can be self-sustaining for the long term. He realizes that he knows very little about politics, economics, administration, etc.
Rajini is perceived as an actor who wants to enter politics with noble and honest intentions.
TN Government’s financial situation is so bad that even the best of CMs will find it difficult to turn it around. While indiscriminate corruption must be stopped, that alone won’t do. Economics is not giving everything to everyone; it is distributing the available limited resources among the many competing demands, and in a way the resources deliver the best bang for the buck, mainly improving the lot of the poor. Similarly, it is mobilizing enough resources in a way it neither hurts the economy at large nor the poor. It involves nuanced tightrope walking.
If Rajini were to become the CM of TN, on the economic front, he will be expected to do just that. Won’t Rajini be able to do what MGR, Jaya or Karunanidhi did, as Ministers are anyway guided by IAS officers? Sure enough he can, if Rajini also wants to do just what these CMs did. But isn’t Rajini trying to change the system?
Rajini is perceived as an actor who wants to enter politics with noble and honest intentions. His strong religious and spiritual leanings are well known. His association with Cho, Thamizharuvi Manian (after Cho’s demise), and other well-meaning intelligentsia gives people even greater confidence in him.
One strong possibility is that, if elected to power, Rajini may become a watchdog CM with no key portfolios.
What are the obstacles Rajini will face? He’s not well-educated, his understanding of politics, economics etc may be inadequate while canvassing and more so for CM’s job, building a winnable party at grassroots level in a short time would be very difficult, his image as an acute alcoholic (hopefully not now) will be hard to erase, he may not be able to remain the goody-goody person he’s been as a cine actor any longer, many of his fans and political second-rung leaders would later realize that they gained nothing personally by supporting him and may turn against him, and delivering as the CM would be very difficult.
One strong possibility is that, if elected to power, Rajini may become a watchdog CM with no key portfolios and appoint good, well-meaning administrators as the key Ministers to run the Government, and just oversee the functioning of his Government. This will give him the chance to shuffle his Ministers around if they are unable to deliver, and hope for immunity from charges of direct failure; but he knows that ultimately he is answerable to the people.
Now, let’s come to the question of whether he’s likely to be elected to power.
There is surely a weakened DMK, but not as weak as ADMK. So, a small but significant % of disenchanted DMK supporters, a large % of ADMK supporters and a high % of the uncommitted voters are the most prospective voters for Rajini. These numbers can increase or decrease depending on how well Rajini convinces people (that he has a clear goal and roadmap for the state, a set of competent and well-meaning people to guide him to govern well, and a long-term commitment to stay and deliver in politics) to vote for him.
The task at hand for Rajini is by no means easy, but given that a lot of thinking has gone into his political entry involving consultation with many experienced & good bureaucrats, professionals and public-spirited persons, his chances of becoming CM are good; even if he loses out this time, he’s likely to be considered a credible alternative the next time.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.