The battle for Mandya constituency has become a prestige issue for the JD(S)-Congress combine, which is making all-out efforts to ensure victory for Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil Gowda, as popular Kannada film star Ambareesh's widow Sumalatha refused to back-pedal on her insistence on contesting the seat.
The multi-lingual film actress has made it clear that she would contest the polls from Mandya in spite of the Congress leaving the seat for the Janata Dal (Secular). Ambareesh, a former Congress MP, represented Mandya in the Lok Sabha thrice.
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.
Much to the discomfort of the JD(S) and the Congress, Sumalatha has already started an aggressive election campaign in Mandya. The grand old party tried some back channel talks to persuade her not to contest from Mandya, but to no avail.
With JD(S) patriarch Deve Gowda launching his grandson and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil from the seat, 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.
About a week ago, Shivarame Gowda met Congress leaders N Chaluvarayaswamy and Balakrishna, as also BJP leaders MLA Ashwathanarayan and C P Yogeshwar.
The ruling alliance is also keeping a tab on the BJP, which has hinted at backing Sumalatha.
Her Friday meeting with former chief minister S M Krishna, who had been a Congress loyalist but joined the BJP lately, seeking his support has sent the JD(S) into tizzy.
"The BJP is playing on all these things. The voters of Mandya will not entertain such dirty politics. We will retain the seat."
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.
Sumalatha, however, Saturday reiterated that she would reveal her cards on Monday at a press conference in Bengaluru.
The other partner of the ruling alliance, the Congress, has directed all its workers to back Nikhil.
"The party will not support Sumalatha. The candidates we had fielded in the eight Assembly segments (under Mandya Lok Sabha seat), 16 block presidents, district Congress committee, district, taluk gram panchayat and booth committee members all have to abide by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee directive," party spokesperson A N Nataraj Gowda told PTI.
Sumalatha's decision to contest the polls from the seat stems from the fact that Ambareesh was very popular in Mandya. He had represented Mandya in the Lok Sabha thrice from 1998 to 2009 and was the Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting for a short period.
He had begun his electoral political career from Janata Dal
(S) in 1998 but later joined Congress in 1999.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)