Karnataka poll: Film stars struggle to shine

Bangalore, April 22 (IANS) People in Karnataka are generally crazy about film stars but this adoration has not tempted many actors to enter politics. And the few contesting the May 5 assembly polls are having a tough time.

The most prominent actor in the fray is Congress candidate M.H. Ambareesh, who was a junior minister for a short period in the first United Progressive Alliance government at New Delhi. Known as “rebel star” in his reel life, Ambareesh, 61, is battling the strongest rebellion against him in his 15-year-old political career in his home district of Mandya, about 80 km from Bangalore.

Opposing his candidature from Mandya constituency, district party unit chief M. S. Atmananda has quit while several other leaders have said they will stay from campaign. Ambareesh is now desperately trying to woo the rebels to avoid suffering his third defeat since 2008.

Ambareesh was elected to the Lok Sabha from Mandya for the first time in 1998 and re-elected in 1999 and 2004. However since then his political fortunes have been on the decline and he tasted electoral defeat twice in a year.

Still being Lok Sabha member, he lost from Srirangapatna assembly constituency in Mandya district in the 2008 assembly poll. Next year he was defeated in the Lok Sabha poll from the Mandya seat.

Ambareesh is the most prominent Kannada film actor who has been in electoral politics since 1998 while most of his contemporaries and the present younger lot of heroes and heroines have been shunning, though some of them campaign for political parties.

Three women actors were to contest the May 5 poll, one from Congress and two from BSR Congress floated by B. Sriramulu, a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister and loyalist of jailed mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy.

However only two are now in the fray – veteran actress Umashree, 56, of Congress contesting the poll for the second time, and Pooja Gandhi, 29, from BSR Congress, in fray for the first time.

The BSR Congress lost another actress, Rakshita, 29, who quit the party recently though she had been chosen to contest.

While Umashree has been active in politics for more than a decade, Pooja, born in Punjab, has changed three parties in one year.

Umashree was a nominated member of the legislative council between 2001 and 2007. She contested and lost the 2008 assembly polls for the first time from Terdal in Bagalkot, around 550 km north of Bangalore.

She has been fielded again from Terdal by the Congress.

Pooja, who now speaks Kannada though with little difficulty, hit big in 2006 as heroine of film “Mungaru Male” (Monsoon Rain) which was a huge success at box office. She is popularly referred to as “Male Hudugi” (Rain girl).

She joined Janata Dal-Secular in Jan 2012, quit in December and went to Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) headed by former BJP leader B. S. Yeddyurappa.

Pooja did not stay there for long and switched over to BSR Congress last month and has been fielded from Raichur seat in Raichur district, about 400km north of Bangalore.

Though only three leading Kannada film personalities are contesting the poll, several actresses are campaigning for ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main challenger, the Congress.

The Congress glamour quotient is Ramya, the reigning heroine while BJP has Tara, a national award winning actress seeking votes for their parties.

Voting to elect 224 members of the 225-strong assembly that include one nominated member will take place in a single phase May 5. Results will be known May 8.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at [email protected])

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