A force to reckon with in Vokkaliga heartland

November 25, 2018

Mandya/Bengaluru:  Ambarish won three Parliamentary elections. He was a Central Minister for a while, holding the portfolio of Information and Broadcasting for about two years. He later became Housing Minister in the Siddharamaiah Cabinet in Karnataka. When he was dropped from the Cabinet in 2016 for poor performance, a miffed Ambarish resigned.

Ambarish considered himself a force to reckon with in the Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya. So did the Congress. However, his poor health forced him to stay away from politics for the past several months. “You think I can’t influence an election sitting at home,” he had asked, in his inimitable slapstick humour. At one point, Ambarish was touted as a Chief Ministerial candidate.

“I have the capacity to get 5% votes in all of Karnataka, not just in Mandya. But I’m already 66 and I can’t work for another five years. I’m not like H.D. Deve Gowda who is in Kanyakumari one day, Delhi the next day and then Raichur.” This was a news conference Ambarish addressed just before the May 12 Assembly election to announce his retirement from electoral politics. The Congress went on to lose the Mandya Assembly constituency after the party chose not to field him.

Ambarish, a Vokkaliga, was at the peak of his film career when H.D. Deve Gowda launched him politically. It was the by-elections to the Ramanagaram Assembly segment in 1997, which Deve Gowda vacated after he became the Prime Minister.

Ambarish, who distanced himself from active politics during the 2018 Legislative Assembly elections, was a politician who fought hard on issues affecting the State. He was a member of the Assembly from 2013 to 2018. Though the party had given him ‘B’ Form to contest the 2018 Assembly elections, Ambarish did not contest from the Mandya Assembly constituency, citing health issues.

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True to his ‘rebel star’ style, Ambarish was an avid racer and active member of the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) and Mysore Race Club (MRC). He opposed his Government’s move to relocate the BTC saying racing is not gambling, and hundreds of families would lose their livelihood if it is moved out of the city.

Ambarish questioned the motive behind the move to relocate the Club. Noting that even in New Delhi, the Prime Minister’s official residence (7 Race Course Road) is very close to the Delhi Race Course, he opposed relocation of the BTC.

Ambarish was the last man standing in terms of Vokkaliga leadership in Congress after former CM S.M. Krishna left the party and joined BJP. Even though D.K. Shivakumar, another prominent leader from Vokkaliga basin is with Congress, Ambarish’s blow was massively felt in Karnataka Congress.

Ambarish’s political Journey

  • 1997 – Contests Ramanagaram Assembly by-poll on Janata Dal ticket, loses.
  • 1998 – Wins Mandya Lok Sabha election on Janata Dal ticket.
  • 1999 – Wins Mandya Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket.
  • 2004 – Wins Mandya Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket.
  • 2008 – Loses Srirangapatna Assembly election on Congress ticket.
  • 2009 – Loses Mandya Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket.
  • 2013 – Wins Mandya Assembly election on Congress ticket.

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