Rajinikanth fully deserves the Phalke, but the timing of the announcement is suspect
But despite Rajinikanth’s demonstrable body of work, given his active inclination for a foray into “spiritual politics” until last year, inevitable questions are being raised if the award is a calculated choice to influence poll-bound Tamil Nadu. While Rajinikanth lent support during elections to the DMK-TMC (1996, 1998) and AIADMK-BJP (2004), in recent years he has made no secret of his admiration for BJP leaders. Not only did he hail Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah as ‘Lord Krishna and Arjuna’ — after the scrapping of special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 — he targeted Dravidian icon Periyar E.V. Ramasamy while recalling the alleged attacks on Hindu deities during a 1971 anti-superstition rally. He backed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. To be fair, since his ‘no show’ in politics, the actor has remained politically withdrawn, though previously he indirectly targeted the DMK and the AIADMK. He has not responded to appeals from ‘neutral’ observers to lend his support for “honest, dynasty-free politics”. Whether the award’s timing would influence the voting choice of his legion of fans is difficult to say as he remains an untested electoral force. However, had the jury put off the announcement of the award by just a week till polling was over, everyone would have unconditionally welcomed the choice. The giver has done the recipient a disservice through the timing of the announcement.
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