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For actor-turned politician, Rajinikanth, the dreaded moment has come much earlier than he expected. His worst fears of being at the receiving end of the main parties in Tamil Nadu have already come true, with a stinging Murasoli article describing him as a puppet in the hands of some communal elements. The article has pained him and caused him great agony, according to sources close to him.

Rajni had always enjoyed the best of relations with late Karunanidhi and his son M K Stalin. Karunanidhi as chief minister had invited Rajni to take part in important functions, giving him pride of place, with a seat next to him. Karunanidhi would use every opportunity to sing his praise. Rajni was basking in the glory of a venerated super star. Of course, his films enjoyed a special status, as his producers were allowed to have extra shows or collect higher amounts in theatres in the first week or so. Rajni himself used to get protection whenever he made public appearances. However, for the first time in nearly two decades, he has been sharply criticized by the DMK.

This was the moment that Rajni feared, and that was why he was putting off a political entry. He didn’t want criticism especially from the DMK, his strongest unofficial ally in Tamil Nadu. With both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi dead, Rajni thought that he could now enter politics as he would not have to criticise the two leaders.

Rajni knew that he could make political enemies the moment he entered the political arena. The article in Murasoli cannot be brushed away lightly. Stalin who has taken over as DMK president is in charge of Murasoli as well. An article in the Murasoli, especially of a political nature, that too critical of Rajni, could not have happened as a result of a lower level malfunction. It must have been cleared by the bosses.

Therefore it is that Rajni feels wounded and upset, coming as it does from a camp that has always supported him, both in the film world and outside.

This was precisely what Rajni wanted to avoid all these years. He knew that once he entered the political arena, he would receive brickbats even from friends. However, the very first barb from the DMK has left him gasping and wounded.

For the DMK, it was a gentle reminder to Rajni that if he entered electoral politics, he would have to take on the DMK, and that the fangs will be out. The DMK (like other parties too) is worried over the entry of actors into politics, and the possibility of losing some of its voters and cadres to the parties of actors. The DMK is also worried over the possibility of fragmentation of votes in a multi-cornered contest, and the likelihood of a split in the anti-establishment votes.

The DMK, in fact, has a sneaking suspicion that these actors are being propped up by powerful parties to cause a split in the votes against the AIADMK and the BJP. The DMK is probably reaching out to the Rajni Manram activists who were being sidelined for seeking party posts, just as supporters of Vijayakanth-led DMDK were wooed by the DMK ahead of the 2016 elections.

This is reflected in the criticism of Rajni as a puppet in the hands of some communal elements. Apparently, the DMK is worried over the perceived influence of RSS ideologue and chartered accountant Gurumurthy.

A full-scale attack by the DMK is something that Rajni cannot digest. Therefore, he has reached out to Stalin straightaway and expressed his displeasure over the Murasoli article. Stalin has responded in a predictable manner by feigning ignorance over the article, and has reportedly instructed the Murasoli editorial team to refrain from such articles against the actor. Rajni has thus extracted an assurance from Stalin that there would be no personal attacks against him. Meanwhile, Rajni has tried to take back those expelled in recent times in a bid to tide over the criticism over the way he has handled differences in the party.

This might bring Rajni temporary relief but at the back of his mind, he knows that he could still be targeted come election time.

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