Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai stated on Thursday that talks are taking place regarding the possibility of Sumalatha Ambareesh, the Mandya Lok Sabha MP and former actor, joining the ruling BJP before the Assembly elections in Karnataka, amidst rumours and speculation.
According to reports Sumalatha, an independent MP, is likely to announce her decision to join the BJP in a press meet at Mandya on Friday.
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This will be ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to Mandya on March 12, to inaugurate the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway at Gejjalagere in Maddur taluk and to address a mega public meeting there. He is also likely to take part in a 1.5 km long roadshow in Mandya.
“Process is on, discussions are on,” Bommai told reporters in Vijayapura, responding to a question about Sumalatha joining the BJP and her calling a press meet in this regard.
There are enough indications that she may contest the Assembly polls, which is likely by May, from one of the constituencies in Mandya district.
Not wanting to divulge any details about Sumalatha joining BJP, party’s national general secretary C T Ravi speaking to reporters in Yadgir said, “you have waited for so long, wait for another 24 hours. I cannot confirm or deny, something I dont know.”
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Every individual has his or her own strength, by someone joining the party, it will certainly strengthen it, in their respective constituencies, he added.
Sumalatha, a 59-year-old yesteryears multilingual actress is the widow of popular actor-turned politician M H Ambareesh.
Recently, a group of “like-minded” people, claiming to be Sumalatha and Ambareesh’s fans, had met in Mandya and adopted resolutions urging her to enter state politics.
Sumalatha had won in 2019 by 1,25,876 votes in the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency, which saw a bitterly contested campaign. She defeated the then Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy of the JD(S).
Fight for Mandya grabbed headlines
The fight for the Mandya Lok Sabha seat had catapulted to national limelight, with the contest projected as a cliffhanger between former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda’s grandson Nikhil, an actor and the candidate of Congress-JD(S) combine, and Sumalatha, who stood as an independent candidate backed by the BJP.
Sumalatha had then initially sought a ticket from Congress, the party from which her late husband had represented Mandya in the past, but it was denied citing coalition compulsions as it had to cede the constituency to JD(S), as per the seat-sharing arrangement. Congress and JD(S) were in alliance then and there was a coalition government in Karnataka.
She later declared her candidature as an Independent, but the move irked Kumaraswamy and the JD(S) leadership, who were once close to Ambareesh, as they gauged that she might be a threat for them in their own backyard.
All was not well between the alliance partners too, as several Congress leaders and workers, miffed over their party’s decision to cede the seat to JD(S), did not campaign for Nikhil, upset over certain comments by Kumaraswamy allegedly against them.
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Many party leaders and workers had extended support to Sumalatha and had campaigned for her openly with the Congress flag.
Mandya district is a JD(S) bastion and the party won all the seven assembly seats in 2018 polls. Congress, its arch-rival, is considerably strong here, while the BJP is weak.
BJP, which is trying to make inroads into the district, had managed to win K R Pet assembly seat in the 2019 bypolls, as MLA Narayana Gowda defected from JD(S) and joined the saffron party. He is now a minister in the Basavaraj Bommai government.
Aiming to win maximum number of seats in Old Mysuru region that includes Mandya to gain absolute majority in the assembly, the BJP has been making efforts to woo Sumalatha into the party. Some of its leaders and ministers have openly invited her to the party and have indicated that talks are going on with her.
Recently, some of her supporters too had joined the BJP.
(With agency inputs)