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Lok Sabha elections 2019: A fight for prestige in Mandya

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Bengaluru, Apr 03: In Mandya the Cauvery heartland, the 2019 poll battle has become a prestige issue for the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)-Congress combine, which is making all-out efforts to ensure victory for Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil Gowda, after popular Kannada film star Ambareesh's widow Sumalatha entered into poll fray.

File photo of Nikhil Kumaraswamy and Sumalatha Ambareesh

The seat is in the Vokkaliga community heartland where H D Deve Gowda's party holds sway. The JD(S) had won all the eight assembly segments under the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency in the 2018 Karnataka elections.

Sumalatha puts up a tough fight

As Mandya deemed to be the safest, besides Hassan segment, for the JD(S) in the entire state, Chief Minister Kumaraswamy fielded his son Nikhil assuring victory. But Sumalatha's surprise entry has upset the equations in this heartland of Vokkaligas, a dominant caste in southern Karnataka.

Sensing an opportunity, the BJP which has no presence, has agreed to back her. Though JD(S) has a formidable presence here, with eight MLAs and two Ministers from Mandya, Sumalatha is expected to put up a tough fight.

The huge crowd that turned up when she filed her nomination suggests, this Vokkaliga-dominated seat might not be a walkover for the JD(S).

Ambareesh, a Vokkaliga actor with a phenomenal fan following in this lush Cauvery belt, was a three-time MP from Mandya and, for a brief while, a minister in the Manmohan Singh government in 2006.

Star power in Mandya

Adding heft to her campaign, many super stars like Dharshan and Yash are actively supporting Sumalatha which has upset H D Kumaraswamy. Cheluvarayaswamy, another JD(S) rebel leader is also supporting Sumalatha.

Actor Rajanikanth, who has co-starred with Sumalatha in a few Tamil films, is expected to join later.

Wadiyar family backs Sumalatha

Apart from the Sandalwood support, Sumalatha has also been successful in garnering support from the titular Mysuru royal family scion Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar.

"Ambareesh was with our family during our tough times. He has also been a very close aide to my father, the late Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar. The Mysuru royal family wishes all the best to Sumalatha," he said.

Vokkaliga belt- safest for Nikhil

As Nikhil too belongs to the politically dominant Vokkaliga community in the state, especially in the old Mysuru region, the JD(S) hoped that he will be able to defeat Sumalatha and retain the constituency, in which the party had won all the 8 assembly seats in the May 12, 2018 elections.

Dissent and insensitive remarks

However, the party's sitting MP L R Shivarame Gowda is reportedly upset over not being given the ticket, despite winning the Mandya bypoll a few months ago.

What people have found shocking is that Kumaraswamy and other JD(S) leaders are busy day-in, day-out making insensitive remarks against Sumalatha to lower her self-esteem.

The party's anxiety could be gauged from the fact that about 10 days ago PWD minister and Deve Gowda's son H D Revanna stoked a controversy by saying Sumalatha made a foray into politics within months of losing her husband. His comment drew flak from all quarters.

But the way Sumalatha handled those insults seem to be turning into a wave of sympathy in her favour.

At grass root level the congress workers are confused and refused to work for JD(S) candidates. It is happening in several places including Mandya. The other partner of the ruling alliance, the Congress, has directed all its workers to get back Nikhil.

If Sumalatha wins...

With the lack of a cadre by her side, and Kumaraswamy making it a prestige fight, Sumalatha is up against huge odd. If she wins history will be re-written as no independent candidate has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Karnataka in the last 52 years.

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