Chennai: As Tamil Nadu braces for its next churn in politics, following the death of former chief minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader J. Jayalalithaa and grand old man and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) founder M. Karunanidhi’s retirement from active politics, 67-year-old actor Rajinikanth’s announcement on his political debut comes at a critical juncture.

With forces like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused of attempting a backdoor entry in the corridors of power in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth’s announcement, laced with references to Bhagavad Gita on Sunday, sparked debates that the actor would associate himself with the BJP.

Backing this speculation, Tamil Nadu state BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan claimed that the actor would ally with the national party in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Rajinikanth’s entry into the state politics “will hopefully bring about tectonic changes in the 60 year old frozen Dravidian politics. His spiritual politics is nearer to Modi’ s than to any one else in Tamil Nadu or outside," tweeted Tamil Nadu’s Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ideologue S. Gurumurthy.

The actor declared that his yet-to-be launched party would function “beyond caste and religion" and engage in “spiritual politics".

Writer and leader of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) D. Ravikumar said Rajinikanth has been “assigned to prepare the political ground and brace up for communal politics".

In the past one year, with BJP making desperate attempts to gain a foothold amid political turmoil in Tamil Nadu, the anti-BJP chorus has grown louder. The national party is associated with its “authoritative approach" and considered as “a villain" in Tamil Nadu, where politics has centred on the social movement plank.

Almost a century ago, in November 1916, a group of non-Brahmin leaders came together to form the South Indian Liberal Federation (SILF), also known as the Justice Party, and fought on the grounds of caste oppression, while opposing the Brahmin hegemony in Tamil Nadu.

The Justice Party along with social reformer E.V. Ramasamy’s (Periyar) Self Respect Movement became the Dravida Kazhagam which later led to the present-day political parties—DMK and AIADMK.

In a state where Periyar and subsequent political movements spoke about the fallacies and contradictions in the Bhagavad Gita, can Rajinikanth alter the political framework of the southern state?

Also Read: Why isn’t it easy for BJP to enter Tamil Nadu politics?

Rajinikanth’s colleague Kamal Haasan is also expected to launch his political outfit soon.

While the political debut of the actors is seen as an extension of the relationship between Tamil Nadu politics and cinema over the years, can the actors be as accomplished in politics like some of their seniors?

Observers said that it would not be easy for Rajinikanth or Haasan to recreate an MGR era.

In Tamil Nadu, where Dravidian politics coalesced on identity and language, theatre and cinema became the most effective tools to mobilize and influence masses. While some grew to be popular and influential figures in politics, many, including Sivaji Ganesan, have been mammoth failures too. 

M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), founder of AIADMK enjoyed a unique following and was a symbol who captured the imagination of the poor and the marginalised. His was a consciously constructed image that aided the Dravidian movement and later swelled into idolatry from Tamil masses.

Also Read: Why it’s not easy for Kamal or Rajini to do an MGR