Actress Sumalatha on Wednesday filed her nomination as an Independent candidate from Mandya where she will take on Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil Gowda in what is promising to be a high-stakes battle. Sumalatha, who has acted in over 200 south Indian films, is the widow of Congressman-film star M H Ambareesh who has a huge fan following in Mandya.
Sumalatha's electoral foray has complicated things for the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition in Mandya. Given a pact between the two parties, the Congress top brass has ceded the seat to the JD(S), much to the chagrin of the grassroots Congress workers of the district. The workers of the two parties are traditional rivals.
With the Congress refusing to back Sumalatha, there's concern that its local party workers will root for her because of the clout that Ambareesh, who died in November, enjoyed. Besides, some of the Kannada film industry's top stars are supporting her. On Monday, as she announced her decision to contest the Lok Sabha election as an Independent at a press conference in Bangalore, Sumalatha was flanked by Yash and Darshan, two of Sandalwood's top stars.
"There's no secret about the fact that Congress workers in Mandya are very unhappy," Sumalatha had told reporters at Monday's press conference. "This might be a difficult path for me but I feel it's the right one. If I wanted to cash in on a sympathy factor...if I wanted to come into politics by any which way, I had lot of offers as you all know," she said, explaining that there were suggestions from the Congress that she stand from Bangalore besides the offer of an MLC post. "I have made my stand very clear right from the beginning that's its Mandya or nothing for me."
Nikhil, who is tipped to be the coalition's candidate, is a debutant in politics as well--over the past couple of years he has been focussing on his film career and has acted in two films so far, both produced by his father's cinema production house (Kumaraswamy was a film producer before he turned to politics.)
Mandya, located 100 km west of Bangalore, is a Vokkaliga bastion whose politics is dominated by the JD(S) and Congress. The BJP, which has struggled to make inroads in the region, has not yet spelt out its stance in the battle for Mandya.
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