Rajinikanth’s support for simultaneous elections and the Chennai-Salem expressway could determine his political fortunes

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CHENNAI: Actor and recently turned politician Rajinikanth came out in support of simultaneous elections and the Chennai-Salem expressway. The idea of one nation one election has gained some momentum after Rajinikanth came out in support of it.

 

He stated that having simultaneous elections will help save money. Recently, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar came out in support of this idea though warning that a consensus will have to be reached before implementing this decision and it may not be put into practice till 2024.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that simultaneous elections will being stability in the electoral process stating in part, “Frequent elections lead to the expenditure of public money, posting of officers from outside and governance suffers. Our democracy is 70 years old there should be some stability in the electoral process. Let's await recommendations of law commission”. The Law Commission has stated that such a process could be implemented in two phases in 2019 pending at least two provisions of the Constitution are amended and ratified by a majority of the states.

The support from Rajinikanth is a boost for the centre which has pushed for this idea. In Tamil Nadu however, there isn’t a consensus on the idea. The AIADMK presented their view in front of the Law Commission earlier this month and stated that all parties must arrive at an agreement.

The Puducherry government informed the government of its opposition to the idea of simultaneous elections. Puducherry Chief Minister said the idea was not practical saying in part, “There could be instances of Assemblies getting dissolved due to political uncertainty. It will not be appropriate to wait for Parliamentary elections to constitute an Assembly or fill the seats”.

As Rajinikanth has stated before, his party will contest in the next assembly elections. He also came out in support of the controversial Chennai-Salem eight lane expressway, stating that such infrastructure projects would be good for the state and bring in industrial investments. He said in part, “Employment opportunities will increase. Surely, people will have losses but the right kind of compensation needs to be given so that people are satisfied”.

The project has garnered a lot of criticism and push back from farmers and environmentalists. Many farmers in the region have stated that they have not been contacted or consulted when it came to acquiring their land for a fair price and often times the price they are offered and forced to accept is too low. Rajinikanth did state that the project should go ahead but the effect on farm land must be minimum, “It should be done in a way that farming lands are not affected as much as possible”. The ruling AIADMK government under chief minister Palaniswami praised the celluloid star for his support of the project.

Rajinikanth’s party, according to some reports has been struggling to convince rural voters to join their ranks and support them mainly because the base of the two major political parties in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK and DMK are solid. While Rajinikanth announced his decision to enter into the political fray last December, there hasn’t been a formal launch of a political party.

His support for the controversial Chennai – Salem expressway will surely play a role in how people view his formal political launch and party platform. The opposition party, DMK, has staged protests against the project demanding that the government hold wide-ranging consultations and discussions with stakeholders before going ahead. The many details of the project have not been made public but there have been some embarrassing instances where a report on the project from a consultancy group hired by the government plagiarized many portions of the report.

The fact that someone as influential as Rajinikanth has come out in support of two big initiatives; one local and one national signals his intentions in his eventual formal political launch. The challenge though, at least in the state is how he will be able to convert this into votes given his support for a very controversial and large infrastructure project.

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