There is growing discord among grassroots level workers of Karnataka’s ruling Congress-JD(S) alliance in Mandya constituency and this could benefit Independent candidate, actor-politician Sumalatha Ambareesh, says her son Abhishek. Sumalatha, the wife of the late Kannada superstar Ambareesh, is hoping to ride to victory on the legacy of her husband, a long-time Congress member who won from Mandya thrice and is a household name in the district. She is up against the ruling alliance’s candidate, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil, and Abhishek, also an actor, has been vigorously campaigning to get his mother elected from the constituency. He is confident of his mother’s chances in the seat that was held by his father — and the Congress.
“At the top level, whatever alliance Congress and JD(S) may have had, on the ground, day by day, the discord among grassroots workers is growing over Nikhil’s candidature. This is benefiting my mother’s electoral prospects,” Abhishek told PTI in an interview. Sumalatha had hoped to contest from the seat on a Congress ticket but the constituency went to JD(S) in the seat-sharing arrangement they sealed in the state.
According to Nikhil, local Congress workers are participating in his mother’s election campaign, a possibility given Ambareesh’s popularity in the area. “What does that tell us? That there is open defiance by local Congress leaders,” he said. “They are defying the party leadership’s decision to fight Lok Sabha polls together [with JD(S)]. Even people carrying JD(S) flags are campaigning for my mother,” Abhishek claimed.
The claims could be a little exaggerated but former chief minister Siddaramaiah summoned Congress leaders from Mandya to Bengaluru on Sunday, apparently to address the dissent in the party’s local unit over the support to Nikhil, party insiders said. Among the most vocal in expressing his disagreement is local Congress leader N Chaluvaraya Swamy, who has said he will not have any joint public meeting with JD(S) leaders during the campaign.
Kumaraswamy, too, alleged in Udupi recently that a section of people want to “finish him off politically” by defeating his son in Mandya, indicating all is not well between the alliance partners. “Some Congress leaders are working and some are not working (in Mandya), but I am not upset with that,” the chief minister had said.
Asked whether the Vokkaliga factor will play a role in deciding election, Abhishek said it will not as people from all castes and communities are supporting Sumalatha. “My father did not play caste-based politics. He was an inclusive and secular leader to the core. Therefore, we are getting support from all communities,” he said.
Vokkaligas form a majority in Mandya constituency and JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda belongs to this community. The dominance of the community is evident from the fact that all eight assembly seats in the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency have been won by JD(S) leaders. Asked what will work in favour of Sumalatha, Abhishek said his mother is a relatively experienced politician as she has witnessed politics closely for years.
“Even though she was not at the forefront, she had been witnessing politics over the shoulders of my father (Ambareesh) for the past 25 years. She has actively campaigned for my father. She knows how it works,” he said. On Nikhil, Abhishek said it is up to people to decide whether he is “insider or outsider”. Abhishek, who is also into Kannada films, wants people to give an opportunity to his mother to serve them like his father Ambareesh had.
“People must remember that if my father had not worked for the development of this district, he would not have been elected many times and with phenomenal margins. That doesn’t come from nothing. It means he has done good work. No matter how much the state government tries to downplay, it is not going to change the truth,” he said. Mandya is one of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka and will vote on April 18. The result will be out on May 23.