Congress party workers on Wednesday defied its party’s instructions and were present in full strength waving party flags in the procession of actor-turned-politician Sumalatha Ambareesh who filed her nomination as an independent candidate from the farmer heartland of Mandya, about 100 km from Bengaluru.
The support by disgruntled Congress workers to Sumalatha threatening to add to the problems between the coalition partners and adding to the widening trust deficit especially ahead of the parliamentary elections, scheduled to commence in the second week of April.
Sumalatha, the wife of late yesteryears Kannada actor and senior Congress leader Ambareesh, will take on Karnataka Chief Minister H.D.Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil Kumaraswamy, who has been named as the coalition’s choice for the seat that is currently with the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S).
“If our workers do this in Mandya, then it’s likely that workers of our coalition partners will not support us in seats that have come to our share," Ramalinga Reddy, senior Congress leader said. “It is our responsibility to help their candidate win according to the alliance agreement," he added.
Congress workers were among the tens of hundreds of supporters seen dancing and revelling to songs picturised on Ambareesh at the procession in Mandya. Their participation in the rally coming just a day after its top leadership dismissed dissent within its cadre and asked them to overcome their differences and work together. Grass root level cadre of the Congress, who have fought bloody and violent battles with the JD(S) in parts of south Karnataka, are unwilling to work with its rivals despite the state level alliance. They have chosen to back Sumalatha, who was denied support by the Congress on the grounds that the party had ceded the parliamentary seat to its alliance partner as part of the coalition agreement.
The Congress is trying hard to keep its alliance intact with the JD(S) in Karnataka as it would help the national party revive its fortunes in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, which the two parties have decided to fight together against Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre.
Congress’ ability to keep the coalition running in Karnataka would also help the Rahul Gandhi-led party to stitch up more regional alliances in other parts of the country to help bring down the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
“A few thousand people out of over 16 lakh voters is not a big problem. These people were mostly people paid to be there," a cabinet minister and senior JD(S) leader said, requesting not to be named.
But the problem is fast turning into a bigger problem than what was originally imagined as even JD(S) workers, angry at the unilateral decision of its leadership to nominate Nikhil by overlooking local leaders, are consolidating behind the actor.
Sumalatha also enjoys the backing of popular Kannada actors like Darshan Thoogudeepa and Yash among others, who were present with her on Wednesday, attracting huge crowds.
The BJP stands to gain from the infighting between the coalition partners as it would give the national party a fighting chance in the sugarcane growing district where it is had little success in the past. The party is yet to decide whether it will extend its support to Sumalatha or field its own candidate in Mandya.