- Rajinikanth says confident of giving "good governance"
- Entering politics because there's a vacuum now, says the superstar
- MGR is benchmark of success in politics, especially for an actor
"When there were two strong leaders like Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, there was no vacuum... Tamil Nadu needs a leader and I have come to fill in," the 67-year-old said to loud cheers from the 5,000-strong crowd that filled the hall at the Dr MGR Educational and Research Institute to capacity. Another 5,000 watched him speak on a giant screen in an adjacent auditorium.
Before he spoke, Rajinikanth inaugurated a statue of former Tamil Nadu chief minister MG Ramachandran. In his speech he said, "Many say all can't become MGR. Yes, none can become MGR. He's a yuga purush. But I have the confidence that I can give MGR's good governance."
MGR is often referred to as the benchmark of success in politics, especially for an actor, with many other cinema professionals trying to emulate him by taking the political plunge in Tamil Nadu.
The actor arrived at university in an Audi SUV, waving to fans gathered outside through the car's sunroof. The highway en route to the university outside the city is dotted with hundreds of big Rajinikanth posters and hoardings.
A controversy erupted when a well-known activist, Traffic Ramaswamy alleged that the posters have been put up in violation of rules and are causing problems for pedestrians. He has threatened to complain to the Madras high court tomorrow.
On December 31, Rajinikanth, 67, had announced he would launch a party and contest all 234 assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu in the next elections due in 2021. He said he would launch the party after elections were announced in the state, refusing to say he would contest the national election in 2019. He would take a call later, he said.
The actor has meanwhile launched a website to allow people to register themselves as members of his forum, Rajini Mandram. His team is also busy appointing district wise office-bearers.
Today's meeting comes just ahead of the release of his next film Kaala in April, a teaser for which was released a few days ago.
In February, Rajinikanth's friend and contemporary Kamal Haasan launched his political party Makkal Needhi Maiam in Madurai. Asked if there could be an alliance between the two stars, Rajinikanth said, "Only time will tell."
However, in a speech at the Harvard University, Kamal Haasan said, "An alliance is unlikely if saffron is Rajini's colour."
More recently, after he launched his party, Kamal Haasan said the two actors have agreed not to attack the other in public.
Both Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth are seen to have timed their debuts to take advantage of a political vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics following former Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha's death and DMK boss M Karunanidhi's age and poor health.
In the 1990s, Rajinikanth's call against Jayalalithaa with his famous slogan "Even God can't save Tamil Nadu if Jayaalalithaa gets a second term" was seen to have resulted in her defeat, paving the way for a DMK-led coalition to come to power.