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Congress does not guarantee sustainability, does not empower women: Mandya LS candidate Sumalatha

BJP leader Sumalatha Ambarish.

BJP leader Sumalatha Ambarish. Express / Nagaraja Gadekal

After officially joining BJP recently, actor-turned-politician Sumalatha Ambareesh is campaigning for the party. She was elected as an independent MP from Mandya Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka in 2019 and was hoping to seek re-election on a BJP ticket. Sumalatha spoke to Ashwini M Sripad from The new Indian Express about her political future, decision to join the BJP and the state government’s guarantee schemes, which she says are not sustainable and have not empowered women.

Fragments.

Q: You won as an independent candidate in 2019. Why join the BJP now?

A: My decision was a surprise to many. I have joined the party that did not give me a ticket for the match. In politics, people leave the party if they don’t get a ticket. I believe in Modi’s leadership as I have seen him work closely together. What he is doing for the country is absolutely fantastic. I shouldn’t be thinking about my future right now or thinking about what I will get. I’m not that kind of person. I believe in his vision and it is my duty to support his vision.

Q: What is your view on the BJP-JDS alliance in Karnataka?

A: Alliance was created from certain reasons and regions. In the Old Mysuru region, BJP has traditionally not been seen as the first choice for a long time. Somehow they felt that this was the time to discuss this too. This was done in the best interest of the party to win the maximum number of seats.

Q: Why didn’t you contest the polls this time?

A: It is no joke to contest and win parliamentary elections as an independent candidate. I won as an independent MP after 52 years in Karnataka. It is not a phenomenon that can repeat itself every five years. I’m realistic about it. The political scenario was different then. That time when BJP supported me, Congress workers in Mandya supported me, but not the Congress leadership. That’s how I won. This time the situation is different. BJP and JDS are in an alliance and for certain reasons I did not want to go to Congress as due respect was not shown to me there. I wasn’t going to go somewhere where I wouldn’t be respected.

Q: Were you both talking about politics when Ambareesh was there?

A: We had healthy and strong discussions. I always played devil’s advocate with him. I used to speak pro-BJP. We watched Modi as Gujarat CM and later as Prime Minister. Those were just discussions and I wasn’t interested in politics. When he left, a vacuum was created and everything else fell into place.

Question: What’s next for you?

A: I want the BJP to gain ground in the Old Mysuru region, especially in Mandya, where it is weakest. Also across the state, where my presence is needed to strengthen the party. We have to start from the basic level. In any case, I want to make an attempt and strengthen the party in this region.

Q: Actor Darshan, who campaigned for you in Mandya last time, this time campaigned for a Congress candidate from the same Mandya region. What is your opinion about this?

A: Darshan is not a little kid where I can tell him where to go. Darshan will support me if I contest, which he did. He will continue to do so in the future. Otherwise he is a free man. He never campaigned for any party, but for people. He doesn’t necessarily inform me about his campaigns. We don’t talk politics when I’m not in the fight.

Q: What do you have to say about the Congress government’s guarantee schemes?

A: Nice names can’t cover up what they’re doing terribly wrong. They are playing with the economy of the state and the nation. They are playing with the future of the youth. Just to gain power, you cannot be so selfish and deceive the people.

Q: But they claim these programs empower women?

A: It’s not female empowerment. If you give something for free and don’t create jobs where they can take pride and dignity, you ask them for Rs 2,000 and other freebies. The fact is you can’t afford to do that. In a country like America, which has trillions of dollars in its economy, why don’t they give freebies to the homeless and poor there? No country can operate like this. Ultimately you will become Pakistan or Sri Lanka – absolutely bankrupt and corrupt. It is not sustainable. We have to see how they will fare after the Lok Sabha polls.

Q: What are the challenges for BJP in Karnataka?

A: In 2019, the BJP won 25 of the 28 seats. Some of them could face anti-incumbency. The biggest challenge is how to convince people that the free guarantee schemes are at their own risk.

Question: Will you campaign for Mandya?

A: Everything depends on the party. At Mandya, BJP leaders including former CM BS Yediyurappa are campaigning. Moreover, JDS has its own strong base there. BJP sends me wherever the party needs me. Unless the party takes a decision on this, I cannot decide on my own to campaign there.