Periyar may help Rajinikanth launch himself in Tamil Nadu politics | Chennai News
And, in the process, the superstar seems to have put the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and the DMK on a tricky wicket. Going by the utterances of Periyar supporters who have demanded an apology from Rajinikanth, it was a 48-year-old story that nobody wanted to reopen.
By pitchforking the issue and Periyar on to the present political debate, Rajinikanth seems to have achieved what the BJP could not. It is not clear if Rajnikanth has realised it, but it amounts to saying that if someone has to create space to emerge as an alternative to the two main Dravidian parties, he will have to chip away at the roots of Periyarism.
It wouldn’t, however, be an easy task, as Periyar was much more than a Hindu idol basher. He was a rationalist who sought to usher in social reforms in a state where a minority upper segment ruled the roost for long. Periyar’s attacks on Hindu deities – something that M Karunanidhi inherited – allowed his opponents to take their campaign way beyond the brahmins and into all sections of Hindus. That could be the reason, why Periyar supporters today speak more about social reforms and less about Hindu bashing. To their dismay, Rajinikanth has now forced them to join the debate on Periyar’s Hindu rhetoric.
The recent developments have, in a way, showed how the DK has mellowed from being a harsh radical outfit not long ago. Even Veeramani is forced to limit his counter to just “we will meet him in court”. The predicament of the DMK and the AIADMK, both of which swear by Periyar, is more precarious. DMK president M K Stalin said Rajinikanth is “only an actor, not a politician”, that he should ponder before he speaks; deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam made a similarly cautious statement, saying people should speak about Periyar only if they understand his ideology.
None of the parties claiming the legacy of Dravidianism can easily disown Periyar, but at the same time cannot go back to the strident idol-bashing. In stark contrast to his father, Stalin has of late been projecting himself as a moderate rationalist, even acknowledging that religious belief would not be an impediment to being close to the DMK.
The AIADMK, had long left the hardcore Periyar path; its founder MGR made it a ritual visiting the Kollur Mookambika temple in Karnataka, and his successor J Jayalalithaa made temple rituals and yagnas a natural extension of electioneering.
The technicalities of Rajinikanth’s statement – which he said was based on a few media reports – may continue to be debated. What needs to be seen is if the actor-to-be-politician will continue the battle even when it gets dirty. If he does, Rajinikanth can be sure that he is ready for politics.