INTERVIEW | Congress guarantees not sustainable, not empowering women: Sumalatha

Sumalatha speaks to TNIE about her political future, decision to join BJP and State government's guarantee schemes.
BJP Leader Sumalatha Ambarish
BJP Leader Sumalatha Ambarish(Photo | Nagaraja Gadekal, EPS)

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

Excerpts.

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

A: My decision was a surprise for many. I have joined the party that did not give me a ticket to contest. In politics, people quit the party if they are not given a ticket. I believe in Modi's leadership as I had seen him working closely. What he is doing for the country is absolutely fantastic. I should not be thinking about my future now or thinking about what I will get. I am not that kind of a person. I believe in his vision and it is my duty to support his vision.

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

A: Alliance is born out of certain reasons and regions. In the Old Mysuru region, BJP was not seen traditionally as the first choice for a long time. Somewhere they felt that this was the time to cover this, too. This was done in the best interests of the party to win maximum seats.

Q: Why did you not contest polls this time?

A: It is not a joke to contest MP polls as an independent candidate and win. I won as an independent MP after 52 years in Karnataka. It's not a phenomenon that can recur every five years. I am realistic about it. The political scenario at that time was different. That time BJP supported me, the 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 alliance and I did not want to go to Congress for certain reasons as I was not given due respect there. I had no intention of going where I am not respected.

Q: Were you both discussing politics when Ambareesh was there?

A: We had healthy and strong discussions. I always used to play the devil's advocate with him. I used to speak pro-BJP. We were watching Modi as Gujarat CM and then later as Prime Minister. Those were just discussions and I was not interested in politics.…Once he left, there was a vacuum and the remaining fell into place.

Q: What next for you now?

A: I want to see the BJP gaining ground in the Old Mysuru region, especially Mandya where it is weakest. Also, across the state, wherever my presence is required to strengthen the party. We have to start from the grassroot level. At least I want to make an attempt and strengthen the party in this region.

Q: Actor Darshan who campaigned for you last time in Mandya, did campaigning for Congress candidate this time from the same Mandya region. What is your take on this?

A: Darshan is not a small child where I can instruct him where to go. Darshan will stand by me when I contest, which he did. He will do so even in the future. Otherwise he is a free person. He never campaigned for any party, but for people. He does not necessarily inform me about his campaigning. We don't discuss politics when I am not in the fray.

Sumalatha Ambarish
Sumalatha Ambarish(Photo | Nagaraja Gadekal, EPS)

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

A: Fancy names cannot cover up for what they are terribly doing wrong. They are playing with the economy of the state and nation. They are playing with the future of the youth. Just to gain power, you cannot be so selfish and mislead the people.

Q: But they claim these schemes are empowering women?

A: It is not empowering women. When you give something for free and not create jobs on which they can stand up with pride and dignity, you are asking them to reach out for Rs 2,000 and other freebies. The fact is that you cannot afford to do that. In a country like America, which has trillions of dollars in the economy, why are they not giving freebies to the homeless and poor there? No country can operate like that. You will end up becoming Pakistan or Sri Lanka — absolutely bankrupt and corrupt. It's not sustainable. We have to see how they will manage after Lok Sabha polls.

Q: What are the challenges before BJP in Karnataka?

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

Q: Will you go to campaign for Mandya?

A: All depends on the party. At Mandya, BJP leaders are campaigning including former CM BS Yediyurappa. Also, JDS has their own base there which is strong. BJP is sending me where the party needs me. Unless the party takes any decision on this, I cannot decide on my own to campaign there.

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