For years, Sumalatha Amarnath (Sumalatha Ambareesh), former Kannada superstar, and wife of M.H. Ambareesh, another Kannada cinema icon and former union and state minister with the Congress, stayed from the messy world of politics. She instead chose to focus on grooming her son for his imminent entry into the world of cinema, while concentrating on her acting career that spans at least three decades.
But with the death of Ambareesh in November last year, Sumalatha found a new calling in politics.
In March, she decided to contest as an independent candidate after the Congress denied her a ticket from the sugarcane growing region of Mandya, about 100 kms from Bengaluru.
What followed was a bitter battle in the district’s recent history, as the campaign against Sumalatha got uglier with each passing day.
However Sumalatha, backed by prominent Kannada actors like Darshan Thoogudeepa, Yash and film producer ‘Rockline’ Venkatesh, maintained her poise and grace.
Sumalatha was the underdog from Mandya, up against the might of the Janata Dal (Secular), a regional party led by former prime minister H.D.Deve Gowda and incumbent Karnataka chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy.
Sumalatha won the Mandya seat, becoming the first independent candidate to be elected to Parliament from Karnataka. “I knew the pulse of the people of Mandya," she told Public TV, a Kannada news channel on Thursday. She defeated Nikhil Kumaraswamy, grandson of Deve Gowda, by 125,622 votes.
“The challenge is huge as I am up against the ruling party. All eight legislators are from JD(S), three of them are ministers, CM, ex-PM and the might of their other family members," Sumalatha had told Mint in an earlier interaction.
Many local Congress workers had publicly expressed their support to Sumalatha as they were unhappy with Nikhil's candidature. In addition, there were supporters of Ambareesh, who was a three-time parliamentarian from the constituency.