The undisputed Thalaiva of Tamil celluloid escalated the level of enthusiasm over his possible plunge into politics in his home state to the zenith today, the last day of his Meet the Fans programme, by urging his delirious fans: "The battle is coming. Be ready."
Without actually spelling out his plans in detail, the larger than life hero of the Tamil film scene, Rajinikanth asserted, "The battle won't be easy. Our job is cut out. We have to change the system through and through. People's attitude to politics has changed drastically over the decades. The system has been corrupted through and through. The system is rotten. It needs a drastic clean up. We need to change the system fundamentally."
Rajini's most strident words up to now on his political plans came even as former CM O Panneerselvam set off for Delhi today to possibly meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu had, a few days ago, shared a platform with current CM E Palaniswamy. That Rajini's backing, in whatever form, will be eagerly welcomed by the BJP which is trying to make big inroads into Tamil Nadu politics in readiness for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was amply clear with most BJP leaders in the state welcoming his possible entry.
"Rajini doesn't need political parties, political parties need Rajini," one vocal fan asserted.
Flatly rejecting statements from some quarters that he was Marathi by birth and unlikely to succeed in the Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu with its foundation in the philosophy of Periyar, Rajini told thousands of his fans in Chennai, "More than half my life, I have lived, worked, grown in Tamil Nadu for close on forty-four years. I lived in Karnataka for only 23 years. You gave me love, honour, fame and a name and made me a pure Tamilian, every inch of my body." He added, "You made me what I am, a happy man. Why should you not experience that same opportunity for happiness and good health? That can only happen with change. You should be ready to effect that change."
That Rajinikanth -- he was considered close to the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and shared a very public and warm rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- was today firmly cementing his fan base for a consolidation of his (predominantly youthful) voter base for the near future was patently clear. Post the untimely demise of Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu has been in extreme tumult not just politically, with the split in the ruling AIADMK and the aggressive attempt of the DMK under Stalin pushing for early polls in the state, but also in people's protest movements. From farmers devastated by an unprecedented drought to the Jallikattu protest of youth to protests that led to the ouster of Sasikala Natarajan as head of the ruling AIADMK finally, the state has seen very little governance since the end of last year.
Will Rajini be the much awaited answer, doing a tango with the BJP? Watch this space.