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Modi sets up Rajini date

Rajinikanth

Chennai, April 12: Narendra Modi has set up a date with superstar Rajinikanth tomorrow, possibly to boost the chances of the BJP-led front that is in third position in Tamil Nadu, behind the AIADMK and the DMK.

Modi is expected to spend an hour at the Tamil superstar’s residence, just one street away from Jayalalithaa’s bungalow in central Chennai. Over high tea, the two are expected to discuss the election scenario, both national and in the state.

The BJP’s Prime Minister candidate will then address a public meeting in a Chennai suburb, where he will share the stage with leaders of the BJP’s alliance partners.

Although state BJP leaders have urged Rajinikanth to back Modi’s run for Prime Minister, the star has refrained from making any public statement. They now feel the meeting would send a message about Rajinikanth’s political leanings ahead of the April 24 election.

“The meeting will indicate to Rajinikanth’s lakhs of fans who should they vote for, even if Rajinkanth does not make any overt observations to that effect,” said a senior BJP official. He said Modi would be the only political leader to meet Rajinikanth after elections were announced.

Modi had expressed the desire to meet Rajinikanth two months ago when he had come to Chennai for a public meeting. Rajinikanth, 63, was then out of town, so Modi renewed his request.

Rajinikanth had initially said he would meet Modi at Chennai airport as soon as he lands tomorrow evening, but Modi felt it would be appropriate for him to drive down and call on the film star.

Although he has never taken the political plunge, Rajinikanth’s interventions ahead of elections have yielded mixed results. In 1996, at the height of the anti-Jayalalithaa mood, he had backed the DMK-TMC combine with the line that “even God cannot save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa is re-elected”. Jayalalithaa was defeated in both the Assembly and parliamentary elections held simultaneously.

In 1998, after the serial blasts in Coimbatore ahead of L.K. Advani’s campaign for the AIADMK-BJP-PMK-MDMK front, Rajinikanth had still backed the DMK-TMC combine. But it won just nine out of the 39 Lok Sabha seats.

Again in 2004, he had said his fans would campaign against the PMK since the party had disrupted the screening of his film, Baba. But the PMK, a part of the DMK-Congress alliance, went on to win all five seats it had contested as the AIADMK-BJP combine was wiped out.

After these two mishits, Rajinikanth has refrained from endorsing any party or combine for any election, though he has met political leaders and shared the dais with them during film events. In that sense, his meeting with Modi assumes political importance, as the BJP could use the photo-op to proclaim its front has Rajinikanth’s blessings.