Sumalatha, the wife of late Kannada superstar Ambareesh, today announced that she will contest the Lok Sabha elections from Karnataka's Mandya as an independent candidate. It is a seat that the actor had earlier represented, and Sumalatha's decision to follow in his stead will result in a direct contest between her and Janata Dal (Secular) chief Deve Gowda's grandson Nikhil Gowda.
Sumalatha was flanked by Kannada film stars Yash and Darshan when she made the announcement at a Bengaluru press meet where fans outnumbered mediapersons.
Ambareesh - popularly known as the "Man from Mandya" - died on November 24 last year. As he was a Congressman with popular support, the party would have considered fielding his wife from the seat. However, it was forced to back away in the face of its seat-sharing agreement with the Janata Dal (Secular). Sumalatha disapproved of the move.
"I only wanted a ticket from the Congress, but they said they cannot field a candidate from here because they are in a coalition. I had thought that the Congress will put up a fight - not for me but for the people - but I was wrong," she said at the event.
Sumalatha - also an actor - said she took the decision to enter politics after much consideration. "Four months ago, I found myself in a terrible position. My friends and family offered support, but I didn't get mental peace... I could see two roads ahead of me, one easy and the other difficult. The easy one comprised living the rest of my life in peace with my son because we lacked nothing. But the right path - and the difficult one - was studded with thorns," she said at the event.
The late film star's wife said that interactions with the people of Mandya over the last three weeks had helped make up her mind. "I am doing this purely for the love and faith the people of Mandya placed in my late husband," she claimed, adding that she decided against joining the BJP because that would have amounted to taking the easy way out.
Sumalatha, however, has a tough fight on her hands. Winning Mandya is a matter of prestige for the Janata Dal (Secular), given the involvement of Nikhil Gowda - Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy's son and a Kannada actor himself - and the internal discontent over several key seats being given away to members of the ruling family. Moreover, Mandya is dominated by Vokkaligas - a dominant caste to which the Gowdas belong.
The film stars at the event said they will return to campaign in the polls. "Sumalatha has a lot of good qualities and intelligence, and she will serve the people well. I will stand with her like a son," said Yash, fresh from the success of his latest film KGF.
This sentiment was echoed by Darshan. "We have not come here as stars. We are here as sons of the family," he said.
Mr Kumaraswamy, however, shrugged off Sumalatha's challenge. "I am not worried about her contesting from Mandya," news agency PTI quoted him as saying.