Tamil superstar Rajnikant on Saturday evening ended a nine-hour fast undertaken to press the demand for the immediate release of Cauvery waters by sipping a glass of juice.
In a brief speech at the end of his fast, the star thanked his colleagues from the film industry, and representatives of various political parties, who had come to the venue to express solidarity.
Whether the fast was a success, he said, would be known if and when the Karnataka government heeded the demands of the Tamil people and released the Cauvery waters as per the order of the Supreme Court.
He then drove in convoy to Raj Bhavan to present a memorandum asking that Governor P S Ramamohan Rao intercede with the Centre to force Karnataka to release water from the Cauvery.
Since Governor Rao is on tour, Rajnikanth is likely to present the memorandum to his secretary.
Though the fast kicked off against a backdrop of controversy, the turnout indicated that Rajnikanth had lost none of his popular appeal.
A day earlier, in course of a protest rally at Neyveli organised by the TN Cine Artistes' Association, veteran Bharatiraja had launched a vitriolic tirade against Rajnikanth.
Bharatiraja, who had directed Rajnikanth in such early movies as 16 Vayathinile that got the star noticed, accused him of attempting to split the Tamil film fraternity.
He suggested in his speech that Rajnikanth's loyalties lay with Karnataka -- an indirect reference to the fact that the star -- whose origins are actually Maharashtrian and whose given name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad -- had started life as a conductor with the Karnataka State Transport Corporation.
"A guest cannot become head of the household," Bharatiraja said, accusing Rajnikanth of attempting to hijack the Cauvery protest movement.
That the tirade had no impact on the star's popularity was evidenced by the turnout. While thousands of fans braved the heat to maintain vigil during the nine hours of the fast, an impressive parade of stars and politicians dropped by to express their solidarity and to join him in his vigil.
The political firmament was represented by the likes of former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, Union ministers T R R Balu and S Thirunavukkarasu and head of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham youth wing and former Chennai mayor M Stalin.
The star lineup was all inclusive. South Indian Film Artistes Association President Vijaykanth to veteran actors Gemini Ganeshan and Nagesh, fellow superstar Kamal Hassan, senior star Satyaraj, director-actors Nassar and Parthipan, music composer Gangai Amaran, young stars Vijay, Murali, Arjun, Prashanth, Abbas (who, interestingly, hails from Bangalore), female stars Simran, Jyotika, et al came to the dais to spend time with the fasting superstar.
Also present were various stars owing allegiance to the DMK, such as Sharat Kumar and his actress-producer wife Radhika.
Kumar and Radhika condemned Bharatiraja's tirade of the day before, and accused him of having launched into the diatribe at the behest of politically vested interests -- a thinly veiled statement implying that AIADMK leader and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was behind Bharatiraja's vitriol.
Kamal Hassan for his part told the media that Rajnikanth has for quite some years flirted with politics, and that today's fast could be the harbinger of a more formal entry into active politics. If that were the case, said Kamal Hassan, who made his film debut at the same time as Rajnikanth, it would be welcome.
Rajnikanth, for his part, referred to a pet theme -- he has for a while now suggested that India needs to put in place a project linking all its rivers, in the north and south, into one great grid as a means of solving the water problem across the country.
"If," he said, "the government says it has no money to implement the scheme, then I hereby announce a personal donation of Rs 10 million from my personal funds."
Rajni allotted venue in Chennai for fast, Neyveli team finalises details
(Oct 10) Karnataka's intransigence over sharing of Cauvery waters is exacerbating the differences in the Tamil film industry with the majority keen on staging a protest rally in Neyveli while superstar Rajnikanth wants to register his protest with a day-long fast in Chennai.
Rajnikanth has sought permission to observe the fast on Saturday, the same day his colleagues propose to hold the rally. Neyveli is home to some thermal power units, which supply power to Karnataka.
The South Indian Film Artists Association has requested Rajnikanth to postpone his fast.
Earlier in the day, Chennai Police Commissioner K Vijayakumar rejected all three venues proposed by Rajnikanth, but granted permission to observe the fast outside the state government's guest house in Chepauk locality.
Despite being a small area, the sanctioned location has been the authorised venue for all those wanting to hold anti-government demonstrations, a kilometre away from the state secretariat.
In a statement, Rajnikanth's aide K Satyanarayana appealed to the actor's fans and leaders of political parties not to visit the venue, given the narrowness of the road leading to it, to avoid any sort of problem.
Rajnikanth had earlier requested the SIFAA not to go ahead with the Neyveli rally fearing heightening of tensions between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and also a security problem as about 7,000 film personalities were expected to converge on the lignite town in Cuddalore district.
But the security of the artists is not the only cause for concern for the state government. The region is a hotbed of pan-Tamil militancy and also a feuding spot for the Pattali Makkal Katchhi and the Dalit Panthers.
A 9000-strong police force, led by ADGP Natarajan, is to be deployed in the town on Saturday and other senior officials would also be present in the town.
The Central Industrial Security Force is believed to be deploying additional personnel in the Neyveli Lignite Corporation township, NLC offices and units.
Bharati Raaja and actor Vijaykanth have been meeting their colleagues and friends in the film industry in Chennai to finalise the details of their travel plans and the rally.
However, fearing violence, DMK president M Karunanidhi has advised pro-DMK artists against participating in the Neyveli rally.
Rajni distances himself from Tamil filmdom on Cauvery issue
(Oct 9)Caught in the controversy over his role in the Tamil filmdom's agitation against the Karnataka government on the Cauvery water dispute, superstar Rajnikanth on Wednesday announced to undertake a separate fast in Chennai on Saturday, October 12.
On that day the Tamil filmdom is having a demonstration and a rally against the Karnataka government in the Neyveli lignite town.
An agitated and restless looking Rajni said he was not consulted before the decision on the Neyveli agitation.
Rajni had attended Saturday's consultations among the film artistes' in Chennai, and cautioned them on security problems in Neyveli, and proposed Chennai as an alternative venue.
Rajnikanth said, he did not want to join issue with those who wanted to politicise his role in the Cauvery row, saying, "I will take care of them at the time of elections."
He told the filmdom that they could not be expected to solve the problem when even the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister [Atal Bihari Vajpayee] and the Chief Ministers [J Jayalalithaa and S M Krishna] could not do so.
He also asked them to consider the plight of the 4 million Tamils in Karnataka, 'to whom, we should not bring any harm through our actions'.
But he justified the need for protest against the Karnataka government, for its intransigence in releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
Earlier, South Indian Film Artistes' Association president Vijaykanth, who rushed back to Chennai from a foreign tour, said he would discuss the venue issue with fellow artistes before taking a decision. "I have also sought an appointment with Chief Minister Jayalalitha, to discuss the question."
Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M Karunanidhi asked partymen not to join the Neyveli agitation, even while extending support for the cause.