The curious case of Sumalatha Ambareesh

Sumalatha with Ambareesh

She was a hugely popular film actor from the South, acting in movies across languages. An acclaimed and award winning movie star, she then married even a more popular celluloid super hero of Kannada films and, soon, quietly settled down with him in Bengaluru.

As her husband made a foray into electoral politics and winning a Lok Sabha seat for the JD(S) from his home district, Mandya, by a huge margin, Ambareesh the rebel star of Kannada film industry turned into a political star. And his wife, the actor, more or less disappeared from the public eye, except for some annual photo ops.

With his strong support in the Mandya constituency staying intact, Ambreesh went onto win the seat three times, two of them for the Congress between 1998 to 2009. He was also an MoS for Information and Broadcasting in the UPA-1 government for a brief period, before resigning to protest against the highly emotive issue of Cauveri waters.

Although he suffered a setback in Mandya in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, he made a comeback winning the assembly seat from the place in 2013 Assembly polls. He was also made a minister in the Karnataka state government. But his health was going on a slippery patch and he was flown to Singapore for treatment.

When he succumbed to heart ailment in November 2018, the massive popularity for the diceased hero once against came to the fore. Lakhs of people thronged to offer tributes to the departed soul, making an impressive optics six months ahead of upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress party would be naturally expected to encash this popularity in the crucial elections. And there was a brief buzz that Sumalatha may be given a Congress ticket for Mandya seat in some quarters. But there was no official statement from the Congress, even after Sumalatha actually went ahead and announced her intention to contest the election.

Now even though the seat share talks between the Congress and the JDS has failed to reach a conclusion, chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil is said to be making his foray in Mandya.

But Sumaltha is not backing off, even while the Congress continues to be mum on her candidacy. She has even said that she would be contesting as an Independent if the party failed to offer her the ticket. She remains unfazed to the social media trolling and a very sexist remark by HD Revanna for ‘venturing out to fight polls within months of her husband’s death’.

She shone bright on silver screen before relegating herself into the background, leaving the foreground and all the limelight to her husband. Now are we set to see a resolute Sumalatha, a politician?


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