Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday backed multi-lingual south Indian actress Sumalatha Ambareesh, an Independent in the high-profile Mandya Lok Sabha constituency whom the BJP is supporting to wrest the seat from the JD-S.
"Sumalatha supported her husband and Kannada film star Ambareesh in promoting the native language and its culture for years. I express gratitude to Ambareesh and Sumalatha for their contribution to Kannada," said Modi in his 35-minute speech in Hindi at a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) public rally in Maharaja College grounds in Mysuru.
Campaigning for the party's candidates in the old Mysore region, which goes to polls in the second phase on April 18, Modi fondly recalled the rebel star (Ambareesh), who died in Bengaluru on November 24, 2018 at the age of 66.
Though Ambareesh won from the Mandya three times, twice as Congress member and once as Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) member, and was a Cabinet Minister in the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government (2013-16), the ruling ally could not give Sumalatha its ticket to contest, as it has been a JD-S bastion since 2009 general elections.
The JD-S has fielded Nikhil K. -- son of state Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and grandson of party supremo H.D. Deve Gowda -- this time.
To support 55-year-old Sumalatha, the BJP has not fielded its candidate against her and decided to campaign for her in the high-voltage battle against 29-year-old Nikhil, an upcoming Kannada film star from Bengaluru.
A section of the Kannada film industry is also supporting Sumalatha, and its superstars Darshan and Yash are actively campaigning for her as a gratitude to their hero and guru Ambareesh.
Though the ruling Congress-JD-S alliance partners entered into a pre-poll seat-sharing tie-up to contest in all the 28 Lok Sabha seats across the southern state in the ratio of 21-7, its district leaders and cadres have refused to campaign for JD-S candidates in Mandya, as most of them are also ardent fans of Ambareesh, a native of Mandya and their demigod.