Actor Rajinikanth has made multiple U-turns on previously expressed opinions since police firing at Thoothukudi last week killed 13 people protesting against Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter in the area.
Tamil Nadu police opened fire on the protestors, Rajinikanth released a short video accusing the police. But after he visited the injured protestors at the government hospital in Thoothukudi.
When he leaves the hospital he said evil forces and anti-social elements had taken over the protest. He added that the protest turned violent when its participants attacked the police. Many called the actor a puppet of the Bharatiya Janata Party as his statements reflected the position BJP leaders in the state took in the aftermath of the Thoothukudi deaths.
When he announced his entry into politics last year. Rajinikanth said his politics would be spiritual. This was widely seen in Tamil Nadu as a euphemism for Hindutva, the ideology that drives the Bharatiya Janata Party.
It is interesting that Rajinikanth’s take on the protests against the copper smelter, and his allegation that anti-social elements were involved, echoes that of Gurumurthy’s. Additionally, Rajinikanth also invoked a point that tried to appeal to the fears of the urban middle class: that frequent protests will drive away investments and jobs, and lead to distress for the youth.
Rajinikanth lost his cool on Wednesday when reporters repeatedly asked him to reveal who the “anti-social elements” he referred. Asked how he knows that such people infiltrated the protest, Rajinikanth simply said that he knows.
In a state where the BJP is viewed with strong suspicion, it will be difficult even for a superstar of the stature of Rajinikanth to get away with statements that endorse the party’s claims without providing any factual basis for it. His Thoothukudi visit is clearly a self-inflicted blow that will require a lot to set right.