Battling factionalism within the party, Congress candidate and multi-lingual cine actress Ramya is fending for herself to reclaim the Mandya Lok Sabha seat which she won only eight months ago in bypolls.
Sandwiched between two factions owing loyalty to former Chief Minister S M Krishna and Housing Minister Ambareesh, an actor-turned politician, the 31-year-old actress is struggling to do the balancing act and win over the voters in this feudal agricultural belt.
Supporters of the two groups clash openly, leaving the politically inexperienced Ramya to plough a lonely furrow in the district where the presence of down-to-earth Ambareesh looms large.
Ambareesh, seen as the architect behind Ramya’s victory in the August by-elections last year, was absent during most part of her election campaign as he was recovering at a private hospital in Singapore from ill-health.
With Ambareesh, whose word counts a lot and could tilt the scales among voters in the politically obsessed Mandya district in the Vokkaliga community heartland, returning home on Friday, Ramya is banking on his support during last phase of her campaign for the April 17 polls.
The ride does not appear to be as cosy as it was when she won the by-election for Ramya, said to be in the inner circles in AICC, as she had the full backing of the government and the party then as it was a prestigious battle for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in the Old Mysore region just months after he took over reins of administration.
Of late, there are reports about differences between her and Ambareesh, with his supporters recently complaining to him about the actress’ “arrogant behaviour.”
Ramya’s main rival is C S Puttaraju of JDS whom she had defeated with a margin of 67,611 votes in the August bypolls wresting the seat from former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda’s party which derives its strength from the Vokkaliga belt, including Mandya district.
Mandya Lok Sabha constituency has eight assembly segments and the seat had largely remained a Congress stronghold barring when it lost to Janata Party in 1984, Janata Dal in 1998 and Janata Dal Secular in 2009.
Vokkaliga community has the majority say in the constituency with about 35 per cent of vote share, while there are also considerable voters from OBC, SC/ST and minority community. Sixteen candidates are in the fray.
BJP has fielded B Shivalingaiah as its candidate. C S Hanumanthappa is Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate.
Puttaraju is banking on traditional voters of JDS with him and his party seeking votes for a regional party to get justice to local farmers over the Cauvery water issue with Tamil Nadu. Puttaraju has also promised to speak in Kannada inside Parliament, if elected.
Though not having much presence in Mandya, Shivalingaiah, Vice President of the influential State Vokkaligara Sangha, can garner significant vote share for himself banking on position within the community body and Modi’s name.
AAP which is making its debut in the electoral politics of the state has fielded renowned cardio-thoracic surgeon Hanumanthappa.
The party believes youth sentiment against rampant corruption in the country and its candidate’s work in the medical field and his service for the downtrodden will help it winning the seat.
Ramya is tech savvy but had a word of advice from Ambareesh who said, “social media like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp won’t work in Mandya politics. The only way to impress voters is to visit every village and listen to their grievances.”
Replying she has tweeted. “The future belongs to technology. If you’re not in it you will be left out.I don’t want my people to be left out.”