After Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy's brother and Karnataka Energy Minister HD Revanna made distasteful comments against actor Sumalatha Ambareesh, party leaders from both the Congress and JD(S) have dived into damage-control mode.
Revanna had told the media on Friday that Sumalatha was showcasing her political aspirations and it's not even a month after her husband, actor and Congress leader Ambareesh, passed away. Sumalatha's husband Ambareesh was a legendary actor and a three time Congress MP from Mandya. After he passed away on November 24, 2018, there has been much pressure on Sumalatha to contest elections. With the Congress and JD(S) unwilling to accommodate her, Sumalatha had said that she would contest as an independent.
The late actor-turned politician's popularity is unmatched in Mandya and Revanna's sexist statement against Sumalatha had angered many of Ambareesh's supporters, who vowed to destroy the JD(S) in the upcoming elections. In what was an apparent move to assuage their anger, Nikhil Gowda, CM HD Kumaraswamy's son and the coalition's pick for the Mandya constituency went on to praise Ambareesh on Saturday morning.
"We are all pained by Ambareesh's death. Amabareesh was like a brother to Kumaranna (referring to his father CM HD Kumaraswamy). I am the kind of person who respects familial bonds. Anyone can contest elections in a democracy. Whoever wants to contest can do that. Let us welcome it," Nikhil Gowda told his party workers in Mandya on Saturday morning.
JD(S) state President apologises
When the situation saw no signs of deescalating, JD(S) state President AH Vishwanath apologised to Sumalatha on behalf of Revanna.
"As a prominent minister in the state cabinet, Revanna should not have spoken that way about Sumalatha. I did not expect him to speak that way. JD(S) is a party, which respects women and Revanna spoke wrongly about Sumalatha. Hence, as the JD(S) party President in the state, I am apologising on his behalf.," AH Vishwanath said.
On Friday, when pressure was mounting on Revanna to apologise for his statements, he went on to further attack Sumalatha. “I have seen so many such dramas. Sumalatha used to act in films and she is now doing the same in politics. Why should I apologise? When Ambareesh died, Kumaraswamy was at the hospital till 4 am. Who would have questioned him if he had gone home after making a quick visit to the hospital? Who is running the ‘Go back Kumaraswamy, Go back Nikhil’ campaign in Mandya? I know who is behind this. I will disclose their names at an appropriate time,” Revanna said.
DK Shivakumar roped in to manage the Mandya mess
Soon after Vishwanath's statement, several of Sumalatha's supporters told the media that she would be contesting as an independent, especially since the Congress denied her a ticket.
The numerous apologies from JD(S) leaders did not put an end to the crisis and Congress troubleshooter and Water Resource Minister DK Shivakumar has been roped in to manage the problem. According to a Congress leader from Mandya, many local Congress party workers and leaders have decided to support Sumalatha either directly or indirectly instead of campaigning for Nikhil Gowda. The Congress and Janata Party have been arch rivals in the Old Mysuru region since the time of the Emergency. The rivalry continued when Deve Gowda split from Janata Party and formed JD(S) in 1999.
"They just formed an alliance and expect us to become friends and shake hands, as if decades of rivalry between us does not exist," the Congress leader said. Speaking to the media after holding talks with Sumalatha via telephone, DK Shivakumar said that she would not go against the Congress party.
"Sumalatha's supporters may have declared that she is contesting as an independent but I have spoken with her and she will not go against the Congress party," DK Shivakumar said. He also claimed to be ignorant about Revanna's statement and told the media that he would react to it once he watches it himself.
Shivakumar has also organised a dinner party for the Mandya Congress leaders, where he will hold talks with them about refraining from offering their support to Sumalatha, sources said.
"The dinner party will be held on Sunday in Mandya. Former JD(S) leader, who shifted to Congress - Cheluvarayaswamy and local leaders Narendra Gowda, Ramesh Bandisiddegowda and KB Chandrashekar are supporting Sumalatha. Hence, DK Shivakumar is organising a party so he can talk to them," a Congress source said.