Sensing a political opportunity in Tamil Nadu in the wake of AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa being locked up in jail on September 27, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is smelling power in the southern state.
It has intensified its efforts to get Tamil superstar Rajinikanth on board to gain popular support and possibly power too in the state assembly polls 20 months from now.
During a Navarathri visit to Rajinikanth’s residence in Chennai last week, the BJP state unit President Tamilisai Soundararajan tossed the idea of the popular actor supporting the party to his wife Lata, party sources said.
They said Ms Soundararajan went to the actor’s house on an invitation from Mrs Rajinikanth.
However, the actor was away shooting for his next movie, Linga.
Ms Soundararajan invited Rajinikanth to release a book on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently being given the final touches. She told the family that she will visit again to talk about the book when Rajinikanth returns.
The two women discussed the political situation in the state and the country, it is understood.
A senior BJP leader said the party felt the situation is ideal for roping in someone like Rajinikanth, who enjoys mass appeal in the state.
Recalling Rajinikanth’s support to the DMK-TMC combine that helped it to oust Jayalalithaa from power in 1996, the leader said the actor’s backing could be a huge boost to the party’s fortunes in Tamil Nadu.
“Both the AIADMK and the DMK are facing corruption charges. We believe there will be a huge leadership vacuum in the next Assembly election,” The Hindu quoted the leader as saying in a front page report today.
Talk of the BJP trying to get Rajinikanth on board has been doing the rounds for a while.
The actor has a positive opinion about Prime Minister Modi, who met him at his Poes Garden residence in Chennai during the Lok Sabha election campaign in the state.
BJP national President Amit Shah is learnt to have discussed the possibility of inducting the actor into the party.
The 66-year-old Jayalalithaa was convicted of corruption and sentenced to four years in prison. The actress-turned-politician stormed back into power and became the southern state’s chief minister for the third time in May 2011.
The moment she was convicted, she ceased to be the chief minister. Unless the superior courts overturn her conviction, she will languish in a high-security prison in Bangalore for the next four years, and will not be eligible to fight an election for the next 10 years.
Jayalalithaa has not groomed a successor. Her loyal aide O Pannerselvam was sworn in as the new chief minister, but lacks her charisma.
Elections to the state legislative assembly are due in May 2016. The opposition DMK is in a disarray. Its ailing chief Muthuvel Karunanidhi, now aged 90, is in no position to launch an effective campaign. His sons MK Stalin and Alagiri and daughter Kanimozhi are engaged in a bitter power struggle.
The Congress Party was bundled out of office in the stay by the DMK way back in 1967, and has never been able to come back to power on its own.
The other regional outfits in the state are too small and fight the polls in alliance with either the AIADM or the DMK.
A situation like this is ripe for the BJP to make a serious effort to oust the two Dravidian parties from the political arena in the state with help from a popular star like Rajnikanth lending it support.