Sumalatha Ambareesh is the new rebel in Karnataka politics. She is stepping into a role which her husband would have played with ease.
Sumalatha wants to contest from Karnataka’s Mandya parliamentary constituency come what may. Her film star husband Ambareesh had won from Mandya thrice and is a household name in the villages of the district. He was also known as Mandyada Gandu or ‘Man of Mandya’. Pretty straightforward.
Sumalatha with more than 220 films to her credit in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil was an accomplished actress before she married Ambareesh in 1991. They have a son Abhishek, who is trying his luck in Kannada cinema.
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Sumalatha gains importance in Karnataka politics as she is seeking the legacy of Ambareesh. Nothing more. She was till recently not known to show any political ambition or inclination. She was also not known for backroom constituency management, common among spouses of busy politicians.
Ambareesh has a unique legacy. A star in more than 200 odd films, playing the angry young man, he was friendly, gregarious, easily approachable, laid-back, and immensely popular. For a star of his stature, one would expect him to have state-level political ambitions. but Ambareesh restricted himself to Mandya. For Ambareesh, as one political observer mentioned, “Mandya is India”. His influence and footprint are intense in the district. Though he had spent some time in Janata Dal, he had been a Congress leader for most of his political career.
Now, for the 2019 elections, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) have come to an understanding that the seat should be contested by JD (S) which won it in 2014 and in 2018 in a bypoll. Deve Gowda wants to see his grandson and Kannada actor Nikhil in parliament and has announced that he would be in contest from Mandya.
However, Ambareesh fans and followers are adamant that Sumalatha should be given the Congress ticket and if Congress leaves the Mandya ticket to Nikhil, she should contest as their representative. Looks like the Congress leadership in the state is looking to accommodate her in any neighbouring seat, but Sumalatha is not relenting.
Adding fuel to fire, Kumaraswamy’s brother and minister HD Revanna recently questioned on how a widow could have political ambitions so soon after her husband’s death – and this has Ambareesh fans fuming. The BJP for its part is indicating that it might not be averse to support Sumalatha an independent. The party had polled more than 2 lakh votes in the last bypoll. She has also recently met with BJP leader and former Chief Minister SM Krishna who also hails from the same district. The vibes were positive.
Mandya and the old Mysore region normally has a three-way contest between the Congress, JD (S) and BJP. BJP is weakest in this region and is always looking for an opening.
All eyes are on Sumalatha as she says that she will take a decision on March 18. She has already begun campaigning in the constituency and posters have come up claiming her to be an independent candidate. However, Congress in Karnataka is quite adept in managing such contradictions and there might still be time to quell the rebellion.
But for now, all the three parties are keeping their fingers crossed.
The Man of Mandya can’t be trifled with, even in death.