Superstar Rajinikanth will launch his long-anticipated political party in January, five months before the Tamil Nadu election. Promising "a wonder and miracle" in the polls, he said his party would bring "spiritual secular politics" with no caste or religion.
"We will surely win the assembly polls and give honest, transparent, corruption-free, spiritual secular politics without caste, creed or religion. A wonder and miracle will definitely happen," Rajinikanth, 69, tweeted with hashtags "It's now or never" and "We will change, we will change everything".
Later, he told reporters: "I am ready to sacrifice even my life for the sake of Tamil people...It is now or never."
Without specifying whether he would contest the polls, he added: "If I win it will be the people's victory, if I lose it will be their defeat."
Ending years of speculation, Rajinikanth announced his political plunge three days after he met with senior office bearers of his forum, the Rajini Makkal Mandram. "District office bearers expressed their opinions. They have said they will agree to whatever decision I take," he had told reporters outside his Poes Garden home.
Rajinikanth went on social media in October to clarify on reports that he was in two minds about his political plans because of his health. The speculation was fueled by a leaked letter, believed to have been written by him.
The letter seemed to indicate that the veteran actor had been advised by doctors to restrict his movements since his renal transplant and could be even more vulnerable to COVID-19. The doctors reportedly advised him that a vaccine was the only solution and they were not sure if his body would even accept it.
Stating that he would announce his stand at an "appropriate time", the actor clarified: "The letter is not mine but the information on my health and doctors' advice is true."
Rajinikanth and another actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan are widely tipped to be the x-factors in the Tamil Nadu election in April-May.
This is the first election since the death of the state's two most powerful politicians, J Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK and DMK's MK Karunanidhi, left a political vacuum in Tamil Nadu.
Rajinikanth, a popular and respected movie star with a vast repertoire of films in Mumbai and in southern states, enjoys a fan following that is unmatched.
In 1996, his words were seen to be the reason Jayalalithaa and her AIADMK lost the election. "If Jayalalithaa is voted back, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu," he had famously said.
His participation in the state election is likely to impact the ruling AIADMK, which has an alliance with the BJP.
Karthi Chidambaram of the Congress tweeted asking if the alliance was still on after Rajinikanth's announcement. "Will BJP clarify," he asked.
The BJP desperately needs a face in Tamil Nadu. Rajinikanth may have fans but has no organisation or cadre that can convert his popularity into votes.
Welcoming Rajinikanth's announcement, BJP spokesperson Narayanan Thirupathi told NDTV, "Rajinikanth's views are similar to the BJP's. We would appeal to him to support us".
The AIADMK, which lost last year's national election, says it will continue its alliance with the BJP as it fights for a third consecutive term in Tamil Nadu. DMK Chief MK Stalin, who lost the 2016 Tamil Nadu polls, managed to sweep the national election and hopes to continue his winning streak when the state votes for a new government.
Over the years, Rajinikanth has denied any political leaning even though his meetings with top BJP leaders and statements in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies suggested otherwise.
Last year, days after the government ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Rajinikanth compared PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to "Krishna and Arjuna" from the Mahabharata and said parties must not play politics when it came to the nation's security.