Is BJP hoping for Modi wave in TN with Rajini backing?

For the average fan, Modi meeting the superstar is par for the course – a courtesy call every political bigwig must make in Chennai

shivani

Shivani Chaturvedi | April 14, 2014


Narendra Modi`s tweet after meeting superstar Rajinikanth at the latter`s Chennai home on April 13
Narendra Modi`s tweet after meeting superstar Rajinikanth at the latter`s Chennai home on April 13

Narendra Modi’s assertion that he called on his “good friend” Rajinikanth on April 13 to wish him on the occasion of Tamil new year, which fell on the following day, is cutting little ice with people in Channi, especially fans of the superstar.

For most, it was a meeting with a political intent – one that did not end up with all-encompassing thumbs-up from the ‘Thalaivar’, or ‘The Boss’, as his fans call Rajinikanth.

But the BJP, which is making an all-out effort to hit the charts in south India to inch past the magic figure of 272 Lok Sabha seats, could still go home satisfied with the meeting at Rajinikanth’s home here. For, the actor called Modi a strong leader and an able administrator who, in his opinion, would make a good prime minister. And Rajinikanth’s appreciation for Modi’s administrative skills is certainly seen as an endorsement for the BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu.

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate later addressed a public meeting in the city. This was Modi’s third visit to the state since being named by the party as its candidate for the top post.

So why is the visit to Rajinikanth’s house such an event? Besides the fact that the actor is revered and deified by his fans across the state, a widely held belief is that Rajinikanth’s backing influenced voters and helped the DMK-Tamil Maanila Congress combine sweep the polls in 1996.

While Rajinikanth stated soon after the meeting that nothing political should be read into it and Modi and he are just each other’s “well-wisher”, the BJP’s attempts to court Rajinikanth is also not new. The party had persuaded the actor to endorse its “India shining” campaign in 2004. According to a report in Business Standard in April 2014, S Gurumurthy, convener of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, said: "We do not need Rajini to lure 20 per cent of the electorate. A mere five to six per cent shift in votes will be sufficient to turn the wheels of fortune in favour of the NDA."

Subsequently, in 2008, senior BJP leader LK Advani met Rajinikanth in Chennai on the sidelines of the release of the Tamil version of his (Advani’s) autobiography. While the two reportedly shared great amity at the function, the BJP failed to get Rajinikanth’s endorsement in the general elections following year.

How far the political climate is sympathetic to the BJP alliance this time – according to a report in today’s Times of India, Modi’s visit to Rajinikanth's residence caused some heartburn for NDA ally DMDK chief Vijayakanth, who, too, has been a leading actor of Tamil cinema – and whether Thalaivar’s indication of backing the BJP alliance will sway voters is yet to be seen. But for the average Rajini fan in Chennai, there can only be one boss – as they say here, “Thaivar is not into politics, but politics is around him”.

Rajini fan D Ranganatha Prabhu, 29, said, “The picture Modi’s visit to Rajinikanth received 2 lakh hits within an hour on Facebook. It must have crossed 5 lakh by now! It is amazing. Any political bigwig who visits Tamil Nadu tries and meets the Thalaivar first.

“Modi is now seeking public attention in the state, so he met Thalaivar.”

Modi returns to Tamil Nadu on April 16 to address election rallies in Coimbatore and Krishnagiri. He is slated to campaign in Erode, Salem, Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari the following day.

Other BJP stalwarts visiting the state include former party presidents Nitin Gadkari (April 16) and Venkaiah Naidu (April 17, 18 and 19).  Party president Rajnath Singh and veteran leader LK Advani are campaigning on April 18, while Mukthar Abbas Naqvi will tour the state on April 20 to galvanize support from the minority community.

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