Tamil Nadu

Will it be a Rajini-Kamal joint appearance at Modi show?

Rajinikanth will be at Rashtrapati Bhavan when Narendra Modi will be sworn in as Prime Minister by President Ram Nath Kovind on 30 May. An invite has also been extended by Modi to Kamal Haasan though the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief is yet to revert on whether he will take the Chennai to New Delhi flight. 

Also read : Who will be in Team Modi from Tamil Nadu?

It would be politically naive to look at the invites as mere courtesy. While Rajini is an old friend of Modi and it should not surprise anyone that the Superstar will be present on the big occasion, Kamal given his pronouncements is a surprise. 

As soon as Kamal entered politics, he had made it clear that orange (a not-so-subtle reference to the saffron party) was not his colour. During the election campaign, he had called Nathuram Godse the “first Hindu terrorist in Independent India”. The expression evoked outrage from right-wingers and even moderate Hindus who objected to Kamal hyphenating terrorism and a religion. 

Also Read : A letter to Kamal Haasan

But then Modi, despite his critics calling it a case of making amends too late in the day, was on the same page as Kamal when it came to Mahatma Gandhi. Modi said he will never be able to forgive BJP’s MP from Bhopal, Pragya Thakur for insulting Mahatma Gandhi. She had eulogised the Mahatma’s assassin Nathuram Godse by calling him a patriot. 

But there was a time when Modi and Kamal shared a rapport. In 2014, much before Kamal stepped into the cesspool of Tamil Nadu politics, the PM had invited the actor to be part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. When Modi announced demonetisation in November 2016, Kamal welcomed it by tweeting “Salute Mr Modi. This move has to be celebrated across political party lines. Most importantly by earnest tax payers.” A year later however, in a column titled `A big apology’ in Tamil magazine `Vikatan’, Kamal wrote, “I owe it to the people to apologise for supporting the plan in a hurry.”

I think Kamal should accept the invite and attend the swearing-in ceremony. In terms of political stature, it will be an important statement to make. In terms of optics, he will be seen as an important state leader.  

I also see this invite as breaking the ice. With its alliance with the AIADMK coming a cropper, the BJP in the context of Tamil Nadu politics could be looking at options. While the MNM got a voteshare of 3.72 per cent in the 38 Lok Sabha constituencies it contested in, what is more important is that it finished a credible third with more than 10 per cent vote share in urban constituencies like Chennai and Coimbatore. Given the role money power, muscle power and alliances play in Tamil Nadu politics, it is not a bad debut. 

Rajini’s pro-Modi tilt is well-known and documented. On Tuesday, Rajinikanth praised Modi, calling him a charismatic leader. Earlier on the efforts of the Mahagatbandhan to defeat Modi, the Superstar had said, “When ten persons go against one person, who is stronger? Those ten or the person they are aligning against.”

Narendra Modi with Rajinikanth in 2014

Rajinikanth has maintained he will have his political outfit ready in time for the assembly elections in 2021 while Kamal would hope to build on the momentum of 2019. 

So could Modi 2.0 with his extended and more conciliatory slogan of `Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’ ally with the 2.0 star Rajinikanth and the Senapathy of `Indian 2′ in a Tamil Nadu 2.0 political experiment. In politics, never say never ever. And should Modi be able to, a la K Balachander, get the duo to share space – political this time – it will be quite a casting coup.  

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