Yet another film star from Tamil Nadu, one of the reigning youth icons, Vijay, threw his hat into the political arena, crowding the space for superstars-turned politicians – Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. Coming at a juncture when there is a perception of a political vacuum in the state after the demise of J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi, actor Vijay’s hints of donning a political role will add an element of suspense and it remains to be seen whom will he hurt more.
For the present, the two Dravidian majors, ruling AIADMK and opposition DMK, are not unduly worried as film stars try their luck in politics as in the past four decades the two parties have got well-entrenched in the state with their respective solid vote banks. The professional politicians heading the parties have no links with the film industry like either Jayalalithaa or Karunanidhi had and are full-time politicians.
The crowding of political space by film stars, at this juncture, could make even the film-crazed state of Tamil Nadu rethink on its penchant of choosing a film personality to shape its future.
However, a narrative is being spread to build a perception that there is a political vacuum after the demise of the two Dravidian doyens and film stars with mass appeal could step in with their smart dialogue delivery and don the role of a chief minister in real life.
This is easier said than done.
Actor Vijay launched into a lengthy commentary on politics at an audio launch function for his new film, Sarkar, in Chennai and said in reply to a question, “If I become the Chief Minister, then I won’t just act like one, but will do my job with sincerity.” And he then said that rooting out corruption will be on top of his agenda. What Vijay did was to hit out at the two superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan who were dabbling with films and politics simultaneously.
Actor Vijay did entertain political aspirations but this is the first time he opened up, albeit in a guarded manner. People do recall his association with causes like Jallikattu and NEET exam. But political analysts are sure that actors may be popular, but can succeed in politics if and only if they have done sufficient time in the field.
Gone are the days when an NT Rama Rao could beat the Congress in just nine months of floating a party, said Bharat Bhushan, a Hyderabad-based political analyst. “Situation then in Andhra cannot be compared to one prevalent in Tamil Nadu today,” he said.
Closer home in Tamil Nadu, perception strategist John Arokiaswamy said that actors had a challenge far greater than they anticipate.
“If Rajinikanth is really serious about politics, then he has to come out of the perception of being an agent of the BJP. Only then can any of his political strategies on caste and creed make a difference,” Arokiaswamy said.
The perceived “political vacuum” could turn out to be a mere mirage for the film stars.
“Aspiring stars like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Vijay can only disrupt the existing electoral space to some extent despite their touted huge fanfare,” the perception strategist said.
Like the other big two superstars, Vijay is also a good actor and today has the largest number of fan clubs. But, film stars do not seem to understand
the complexities of facing a well-oiled socio-political ground machinery of the two Dravidian majors.
Even the recent example of Karuppu MGR (Black MGR) that actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth was known as bears this out. After a flash in the pan performance of winning more seats than the DMK by forging an alliance with Jayalalithaa in the 2011 assembly elections, Vijayakanth failed to win even a single seat in the next general elections in 2016 when he went alone.
But even to get to be accepted by the people, totting up a vote share of eight per cent, it took Vijayakanth 10 years of hard work in the field. By no means
could he enter politics and make a big splash in terms of seats. Yes, he could have made a difference in 2016 general elections too, if the DMK had roped him into its fold. The shape of politics in Tamil Nadu could have taken a different turn, but that was not to be. The DMK lost narrowly to AIADMK and Vijayakanth was wiped out of the assembly.
Days of film stars becoming chief ministers may be truly over, even in Tamil Nadu—unless the stars are backed by a strong political machinery on the ground.