The political flip-flops of Superstar Rajinikanth over the last three decades

The political flip-flops of Superstar Rajinikanth over the last three decades
  • Rajinikanth is one of the most loved and highly-paid actors in Asia, who holds a mass appeal.
  • His unique sense of dialogue delivery and the swiftness of his actions helped create the brand ‘Rajinikanth’.
  • Earlier this week, Rajinikanth said that he is disbanding his political party.
Sivaji Rao Gaekwad has had it tough, early on in his life.

After schooling, he took up various jobs and worked as a carpenter, coolie and finally a bus conductor in Bangalore.

Born in Bangalore in 1950, Gaekwad worked as a bus conductor in the 1970s before he made his debut in Tamil cinema in 1975 with the film Apoorva Ragangal.

Gaekwad was reincarnated as Rajinikanth.

But this story is not about his filmography. This is an effort to look back at his complete volte-face on politics.


Earlier this week, the Dadasaheb Phalke award winner said that he has disbanded his political party putting an end -- seeming once and for all -- to his noncommittal tryst with politics.

In Tamil Nadu, movie stars taking a plunge into politics has always been a norm. Movie stars like J Jayalalithaa and M G Ramachandran, commonly known as MGR, have been chief ministers of the state representing the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

AIADMK’s rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) former leader, late M. Karunanidhi also wrote scripts and dialogues for films.

So, when it came to Rajinikanth, the public expected him to follow the same path.

He first dipped his toe into the arena back in 1996, by campaigning against the then chief minister Jayalalithaa. His speech against the former actress stated, “If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu," causing shockwaves and leading to the defeat of the AIADMK in the elections that year.

Bus conductor, movie superstar and people’s favourite

Rajini’s appeal to masses comes from his encapsulation of the working class and labourers in the roles he chooses. For example, in his film Muthu, one of the songs — Oruvan Oruvan Mudhalali — talks about the role of equality and humanity. Another song Naan Autokaran from the movie Baashha captured the attention of the auto drivers association as the song praised the community.

While his mass appeal and stardom in south India helped the DMK in the 1996 Assembly Election, it was not the same in 1998 when the General Elections took place.

The DMK was only able to secure 9 seats out of 39. Since the defeat, Rajini has steered clear of politics for more than six years and focused on his film career and personal life.

Political and ‘not so’ political phase

After the failure he faced in the 1998 general elections, in 2004 he entered into politics again by raising his voice against the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and supported the AIADMK-BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) alliance as PMK had created a big ruckus against his film ‘Baba’.

Though Rajinikanth did not change his opinion on Jayalalithaa, he supported the alliance thinking that the BJP will work for ‘linking all the rivers in the country’ to solve the drinking water crisis. His efforts against PMK was all in vain once again as the party won only 5 seats in the Lok Sabha election. Later in the same year, the BJP-AIADMK alliance was not able to win even a single seat in the state assembly election that followed.

Meanwhile, he was changing the trend and style of Tamil cinema with his mannerisms and unique dialogues. “Nan oru thadava sonna nooru thadava sonna madhiri”, (If i say it once, its equivalent to having said it a hundred time) -- a punch dialogue from the movie Baashha and “En vazhi thani vazhi”(My way is a unique way) from Padayappa are something which people celebrate even today.

Rajinikanth goes through a crisis

The Tamil Superstar was about to appear in Rana, a period film to be produced by his daughter Soundarya Rajinikanth and directed by K. S. Ravikumar. But he suffered a mild foodborne illness in the sets for which he had to undergo medications. After that he was rushed to St. Isabel's hospital, in Chennai, for breathlessness and fever. He was also admitted to the Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute in the month of May for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. In this phase Rajinikanth was completely hospitalised and did not indulge in politics much except for his support to the AIADMK in the Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections in 2011.

In 2014, his political stature grew as Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the actor at his residence before the general elections. Both of them denied that there were no political indications in the visit, but it seemed like both held each other in great regard. After that the BJP put in all the efforts to make Rajinikanth join the party thinking about his stardom and the 1996 elections.

The political flip-flops of Superstar Rajinikanth over the last three decades

Finally the wait was over

He started to meet his fans across Tamil Nadu and gave a hint that he was entering politics in 2017. Just before the New Year, he organised a fan meet-and-greet — an event went on for six days. Fans from more than 20 districts were present at the meet.

Finally, he addressed the gathering at the Raghvendra hall in Chennai on December 3, 2017 where he opened up about his entry into politics.

Soon after his announcement, the ‘Rajini fans welfare association’ was transformed and established as a political party named ‘Rajini Makkal Mandram’.

He visited the Himalayas for his movie ‘Baba’ which was released in the year 2002 and started to breathe spirituality back into his life and this was regarded as the reason he chose the ‘Baba symbol’ as the logo for the mandram. However, he has always mentioned that he will be into “spiritual politics”.

U-turn happened

Even after his announcement regarding the entry to politics, Rajinikanth decided not to take part in the 2019 general elections and also clearly said that his party, Rajini Makkal Mandram will not support any political party in the Lok Sabha elections.

Rajnikanth finally ended the suspense and tweeted on 3 December, 2020 that he will bring back his political party in January 2021. The people were expecting the Rajini Makkal Mandram, to take part in the 2021 state election in Tamil Nadu. He also stated that the public wants transparent, honest, corruption-free, secular, caste-less, and spiritual politics.

Chaos comes to an end

Though he nodded yes to politics, the superstar of Tamil cinema, announced clearly on July 12, 2021 that he has no plans to enter politics, after a discussion with the ‘Rajini Makkal Mandram’. He also added that the Mandram has been dissolved. A separate meeting happened with the party authorities in the Raghavendra Mandapam (hall) in Kodambakkam on 12 July, after which the actor announced his decision in a press meet. He stated that the party will be back to ‘Rajinikanth Fans Welfare Association’ with the same members.

In his Twitter account, he released a notice announcing the decision. He also added that he has been under medication and has been to the US for medicinal examinations followed by the shooting of his upcoming film Annaatthe, which is why he will not be able to concentrate on politics anymore.

After this announcement, it seems pretty clear that the actor has shut the door forever.


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