Indian action hero Rajinikanth enters political fray


Indian actor Rajinikanth (centre) addresses the media representatives in front of his residence in Chennai on Dec 3, 2020. - AFP

CHENNAI, India (AFP): Indian film superstar Rajinikanth on Thursday (Dec 3) became the latest in a long line of big-name actors to enter politics, vowing to bring in "corruption-free" government to his home state.

The action hero, one of Asia's best-paid actors, said on Twitter that with "huge support from people" he would be launching a political party in January that is expected to contest elections scheduled in Tamil Nadu state next year.

The 69-year-old former bus conductor said the public wanted "honest, transparent, corruption-free, caste-less, secular and spiritual politics" in the state.

"Wonderful and amazing things will happen!" he added without stating explicitly that he would stand himself.

The actor enjoys a cult-like following across India where he is called "The Superstar" or "Thalaivar" (leader).

Every new film sends Tamil Nadu into a frenzy, with fans getting haircuts like his most recent character or having his face tattooed on their bodies.

Rajnikanth, who worked on buses in the southern city of Bangalore before moving into acting in 1973, proved his political muscle in 1996 when he called on fans to oppose the Tamil Nadu government, which was then voted out of power.

Rajinikanth said in 2017 that he wanted to enter politics to bring "change in Tamil Nadu". His fans set off fireworks in celebration but have been waiting since for the formal moves.

He launched his own movement, Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM), which has since been putting in place the political launchpad for the film hero.

He has carried on making films and had health scares which led some to believe that he would give up his political ambitions.

Rajinikanth is following a well-worn path from the cinema into Indian politics.

Hindi star Sunny Deol is a member of parliament and another Tamil star, Kamal Haasan, formed his own party in 2018 but failed to win a seat in a national election last year.

Jaya Bachchan, the actor wife of Bollywood's best-known star Amitabh Bachchan, has served four terms as a member of the Rjya Sabha upper house.

Comedy actor Govinda was a member of parliament from 2004 to 2009 and actress Rekha was a member of the Rajya Sabha parliament but stood down in 2018 following criticism of her attendance record.

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