- Rajinikanth's remark seen by many as attempt to distance himself from BJP
- Comment comes after centre decides to honour the actor later this month
- South superstar said he would launch party before 2021 Assembly poll
South superstar-turned-politician Rajinikanth has said "attempts are being made to saffronise" him but added that he "will not be trapped" -- a comment seen by many as an attempt to end speculation he may tie up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP. Referring to a recent controversy triggered by Tamil Nadu BJP, which released photos of fifth-century Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar dressed in saffron, the 68-year-old actor said he, like Tiruvalluvar, "would not get trapped".
"The BJP has not made any offer to me to join them. Attempts (are being) made to paint me with BJP colour. Like Tiruvalluvar, attempts (are being) made to saffronise me. I will not get trapped, nor will Tiruvallur," he said today, responding to a question about Tamil Nadu BJP leader Pon Radhakrishnan reportedly inviting him to join the party.
The comment comes only days after the centre announced he is to be honoured with the Icon of Golden Jubilee award at the International Film Festival of India, to be held in Goa later this month.
The BJP reacted to Rajinikanth's statement by saying it had never indicated the actor had an interest in joining the party.
"We have never said that Rajnikanth has joined or wants to join BJP. The BJP is not interested in these speculations. Our focus is now on preparing for local body elections," party leader Muralidhar Rao was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Two years ago the actor-politician, who said he would enter the political arena "if God willed", indicated he would launch his party ahead of the next Assembly elections - currently scheduled for 2021. His statement came at a time when the ruling AIADMK was in the midst of power struggle between Chief Minister E Palaniswami and his predecessor O Paneerselvam.
Fast forward to 2019 and the deaths of icons and former Chief Ministers M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa has led to renewed speculation superstars like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan could now play key roles.
"There is still a leadership vacuum in Tamil Nadu," Rajinikanth said today.
The BJP, which drew a blank in Lok Sabha polls in April-May despite entering an alliance with the ruling AIADMK, is trying to expand its footprint in the southern state. However, Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by the two Dravidian parties - the DMK and the AIADMK - for several decades.
The BJP has set itself the target of capturing power in the state in 2021.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then the BJP-led NDA's candidate for the post, met Rajinikanth ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Many saw the 2014 meeting as tacit attempt by the BJP to project itself as having Rajinikanth's support.
The party fared miserably in that election as well, winning just the one seat.
Rajinikanth also appealed for calm ahead of a verdict, expected next week, in the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute. "I appeal to everyone to keep calm however Ayodhya verdict goes," he said.
The actor's remarks were made after actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan and he unveiled a bust of late Tamil film director K Balachander at the Makkal Needhi Maiam chief's production offices in Chennai.
With input from ANI