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After Cong Slight, Sumalatha Ambareesh May Contest as Independent from Mandya Against Gowda Scion

The grand old party, which has allied with the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka for the upcoming general elections, says it has conceded the Mandya Lok Sabha seat to the JDS and hence, would not be fielding Sumalatha as a candidate.

Revathi Rajeevan, Deepa Balakrishnan

Updated:March 5, 2019, 5:46 PM IST
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After Cong Slight, Sumalatha Ambareesh May Contest as Independent from Mandya Against Gowda Scion
File photos of Sumalatha Ambareesh and JDS president Deve Gowda.
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Bengaluru: In Kannada filmdom, fans of stars have always bestowed titles on their heroes and the film world has always known MH Ambareesh as the ‘rebel star,’ the iconic stylish hero of over 200 films.

This year, the late actor’s wife, Sumalatha, who too has more than 200 films to her credit, may take on that title as she looks at slipping into her husband’s shoes on the political front.

Sumalatha is keen on contesting from the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency, which Ambareesh represented thrice as a Congressman.

However, the grand old party, which has allied with the Janata Dal (Secular) for the upcoming general elections, says it has conceded the Mandya seat to the JDS and hence, would not be fielding Sumalatha as a candidate.

"When the Congress is not going to get that seat, the question of giving a ticket to Sumalatha does not arise," said former chief minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday.




Siddaramaiah, who heads the coordination committee of the alliance in Karnataka, has been given the charge of taking a final call on seat-sharing and candidates.

It would take about a week before a consensus is reached on both the issues, but basic premises have reportedly been agreed upon, one of them being the JDS contesting from the two seats it already represents.

Not one to sit back, Sumalatha has hinted at contesting from Mandya as an independent candidate, a task which would pit her against the politically powerful Gowda family.

The JDS is said to have given its green signal to Nikhil Kumaraswamy, grandson of former PM Deve Gowda and son of sitting chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, to make his political debut from the seat.

Sumalatha has been touring the district, meeting with fans and political workers, and even exhibited her largesse by announcing tracts of land for the widow of CRPF jawan H Guru, who died in the recent Pulwama attack and hailed from Mandya.

The JDS is also demanding one-third of the 28 seats in Karnataka and a meeting between party president Deve Gowda and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is in the offing before a final decision is taken in this regard.

However, seat-sharing talks have already led to rumblings within the Congress, which has always thought of itself as the ‘greater’ partner in the state as it has more than double the MLAs as compared to the JDS, but gave the chief minister’s chair to JDS’ Kumaraswamy.

Former Congress minister from Gowda’s home-constituency Hassan, A Manju, has openly asked why his party is not putting its foot down on the JDS’ demands. “If we cannot ask for seats where they (JDS) have sitting MPs, then they too should ask for seats where we have sitting MPs. We have given them the CM’s post, so they should think about giving one of those seats to us,” Manju said.

The JDS-Congress alliance which is confident of its voter base in the Mysore region or south Karnataka, may have to worry about Sumalatha as an independent though, because some in the BJP has also considered supporting her.

"We have to persuade her to not contest as an independent, because this district is rather charged up on its loyalties. We are aware that Congress and JDS workers don’t see eye to eye and there is a disconnect on the ground. Ultimately, the JDS candidate will win, but it’s not going to be a victory to write home about, if the BJP ends up supporting her or, worse still, fielding her,” said a senior Congress leader.

Besides, until the last minute, Ambareesh himself was thinking of contesting the assembly elections in May, but he had realised that his popularity was waning and refused to get into the fray.

He was once a Union minister of state, and later, housing minister in the Siddaramaiah cabinet, but is credited with little work on the ground. A joke that did the rounds at the time was that he was too busy running around trees (for his films) to attend Parliament sessions.

He also rarely went to his own office in the Vidhana Souda though vested with an important department like housing, until he was dropped from the cabinet.

Much has changed on the ground now, though, six months since. There is a sympathy for Ambareesh, who passed away in November. There is also his son, who has debuted in a film. Besides,
Congress workers who are angry with the JDS at the district-level may even end up supporting her.

The BJP leadership said its internal surveys are on and it was too early to decide on supporting an independent.

“She has not approached us for support, we haven’t offered it. The core committee will have to discuss this, but our focus will naturally be to have our own winning candidate. We feel regional issues won’t make waves in the current situation. It will be national issues based on which people will vote, so why would we support an independent?” asked a party MLA.
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