Mandya, May 23: Supported by BJP and a section of Congress leaders, Sumalatha, wife of late Congress leader Ambareesh, has defeated Nikhil Gowda, son of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, in Mandya.
What seemed like a neck-and-neck fight in the morning soon turned into a landslide victory for the independent candidate, who secured 6,98,213 votes while Nikhil secured 5,71,777 votes.
With this the 55-year-old actor-turned-politician became the first independent MP from Karnataka in 52 years, only third in its history. The last time Karnataka elected an independent candidate was in 1967 and 1957.
The widow of Ambareesh, made her political debut as an independent candidate from Mandya after the grand old party denied her a ticket. The Congress ceded the seat to JDS as per seat sharing deal and that latter fielded Nikhil.
Given the fact that she was contesting against the politically powerful Gowda family as an independent in a constituency where the Congress-JDS has 80% of the vote share, anybody would have guessed the winner. Also, the Mandya lok sabha constituency has eight JDS MLAs.
However, ever since the announcement of Nikhil’s candidature and Sumalatha decided to contest, disappointment among party workers was visible on the ground.
Sumalatha, who has acted in more than 200 films in five languages, was mostly busy with personal work during the one month between polling on April 18 and result day on May 23.
“A lot of personal work was pending. I finished dubbing of a movie and promotional work for another one. Then I also had my son's movie. I had to see how that was going. I was busy with different things,” she said. Her son, Abhishek Ambareesh (25), is an aspiring actor.
She may not have contested on a party symbol, but received show of support from many, including workers of the party that denied her the ticket.
Many local Congress workers had publicly expressed their support to Sumalatha after they were miffed with Nikhil's candidature.
In addition, there were supporters of Ambareesh, who was a three-time parliamentarian from the constituency.
Backing her and campaigning on the ground were Kannada actors Yash and Darshan. The BJP did not field a candidate in the constituency and expressed its support for Sumalatha.
“I did not plan any of this. All the things that happened in my life were unplanned. When Ambareesh passed away, people asked me to contest. I contested for the people who supported Ambareesh. If I win, people will be looking up to me to fulfill his legacy. I have to take forward the work he left behind,” she said.
Sumalatha's entry into movies too was not planned. Born in Chennai to parents from Andhra Pradesh, she did her initial education in Bombay in a school named ‘Karnataka High School'. “May be I was destined to be here,” she added.
"My family has a lot of members in the forces. They wanted me to study. After my 10th examination, I was offered a movie. My family was apprehensive, but my friends suggested I could finish it during holidays and come back. Before I knew, there were many offers with great actors like Kamal Haasan, Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan and Malayalam superstars like Prem Nazeer. There was no time to look back and regret,” she recalled.
It was during one of these film shoots that Sumalatha and her late husband Ambareesh met and later, got married in 1991.
“Though it sounds very dramatic today, it gradually developed over six to seven years. From colleagues, we became friends and then close friends. After a point, we realised we felt something for each other which was more than friendship, more than liking. We did not meet often. He was doing two-three shifts. I was doing movies in five languages. We spoke over the phone. Our STD bills would be so high. We never wrote letters. If at all we did, it was me. He never did,” she said.
Sumalatha trounces HDK’s son Nikhil to becomes Karnataka’s 1st independent MP in 52 years