The two-day State BJP Executive Committee meeting held in city on May 6 and 7, 2017, created a lot of media furore that was avoidable. Many leaders in the party felt that they could have had a person to handle the aggressive media. If only they had a proper spokesperson who knew Mysuru and its culture, the embarrassment could have been avoided. One person’s name that came up was that of actress and BJP Spokesperson Malavika Avinash but, as often happens in BJP, neither she nor anyone else was given the responsibility. This was the same Malavika who was making news as the likely candidate for the KR Constituency in city for the forthcoming Assembly elections in 2018.
Star of Mysore Features Editor N. Niranjan Nikam caught up with Malavika Avinash, who was sitting with a fractured leg at a private hotel in city early morning, over breakfast. She talked about why she was attending the meeting, her interest in politics, why she feels she should contest from Mysuru and her role as a Spokesperson and her husband Avinash. Excerpts.
By N. Niranjan Nikam
Star of Mysore (SOM): You have always been an aspiring politician. Mysuru is known to nurture film stars, writers, sportsmen and even politicians. How was your experience attending the BJP State Executive Committee meeting?
Malavika Avinash: Yes, I always wanted to be a politician. I joined Law in 1993 in Bangalore University soon after I finished my 12th Standard. It was a five-year course. In those days Bangalore University had banned student politics as lot of incidences of kidnapping and politicisation of student politics was happening.
Then this whole thing of being in and out as an actor began as a child actor when I started acting at the age of 9 till class 11 in Malayalam films. Then I went back to college and soon after college, Mayamruga happened. I played the role of a lawyer, it was an idealistic character. Then I became a full-fledged actor.
I entered politics in 1999 when I campaigned for Sushma Swarajji, the BJP candidate in Bellary. It was the start of my innings in politics. Again, I went back to acting but did campaign for the BJP-JD(U) combine in 2004. May be I should have continued in politics. But it was in July 2013 when I became a keen activist. From July 2013 to 2014, it was the most exciting part of my life. Modiji won the elections and it was a landslide victory for BJP and I think I played a tiny part in it. For five months I travelled across 21 constituencies campaigning in Karnataka.
SOM: How did this meeting here resonate with you?
Malavika: This is no different in intensity from all other State Executive Meetings. About 640 people are attending the meeting. BJP is all set to make a comeback in the State. Hence it is a very important State Executive. It is like sounding the poll bugle. After all, Karnataka was called Mysore State earlier. It has been led by great men, many of whom were Statesmen. Think of electricity, water, well-laid out roads, it was all due to the benevolent rulers that Mysuru produced. No other city has the heritage and culture that represents the Kannidaga spirit than this city. The Chief Minister also belongs to the city and it is a big challenge for him when we take him on.
SOM: In spite of hurting your leg, you are attending the meet. Is it so important to make your presence felt?
Malavika: (Laughs loudly) BJP has taught us that it is the nation first, party next and self the last and that is the guiding spirit of our party. You are expected to put the nation above everything else.
SOM: You indeed are a hugely talented and accomplished actress acting in both Tamil and Kannada films besides being a popular TV star. Why do you still want to enter politics?
Malavika: In my mind, I entered it long ago. I am not an actor. I am basically a politician who chose acting. Acting was never on my agenda. It has always been politics, it is working for the people. Earlier, I had worked for three years with an NGO Madhyam Foundation, which focuses on development communications. It was good, but there is only so much you can do. Also, it is too much tilted to the Left. I have always tilted towards the Right. Hence, there grew a sense of disillusionment towards the NGOs. Then the next best avenue for doing something good for the society is politics.
SOM: There is not much difference in acting in reel life and donning the role as a real-time politician, is it not?
Malavika: (Laughs again and introspects). Art imitates life. One does not play only a single role in life. You are a mother, wife, daughter, sister. It is like wearing different clothes for different occasions. You do play the role depending on the need of the hour. I have always chosen the character that I have played barring a few which I felt I should not have done. I have played a politician also.
I think real life politics is very difficult. It is as unique as life itself. One formula does not fit all.
SOM: There is news doing the rounds that you are keen on contesting in Mysuru from KR Constituency. Is this true and why Mysuru?
Malavika: This news is as much news to me as it is for everybody else. I don’t know how and where it all began. But this has been one development a little over a week that I didn’t see dying down. Perhaps a lot of the voters are excited at the possibilities. Several of them individuals, organisations and important people of Mysuru including a few journalists have spoken to me since and encouraged me to take the plunge. I can’t say that I am not excited. That would be a lie.
I look at it this way. When I got into BJP in 2013, I did not know that I would be made a spokesperson within three months or so. That is not what I had expected. It is four years now and I have played the part quite well. Once you enter the organisation you do as you are told to. I was even made the star campaigner for 2014 general elections, by-elections, local body, MLC elections including the Nanjangud and Gundlupet by-elections. If the leadership feels I am ready for full-time politics, then I will accept it as my duty. In BJP that is how it is. More than what you aspire for, it is for the leadership to choose to utilise your talent and time in the best way.
SOM: But why Mysuru?
Malavika: Mysuru is second home to me in the last 15 years of my marriage to Avinash. I don’t think there is a month that has gone by without me visiting Mysuru. He feels like Mysuru is his home. He hails from Yelandur in Chamarajanagar district. He grew up in Mysuru. It is indeed a beautiful city. I must tell you here that I had visited Moscow and Leningrad, the then USSR in 1989 on an exchange programme when I was still in school. On returning I remember I had published an article on how Moscow is like Bangalore and Leningrad like Mysore with its Stately buildings. It is a mix of modernity and royalty. It is a great feeling, you can’t express it, you can only feel it.
SOM: As an outsider do you think you will be accepted if you are fielded in Mysuru?
Malavika: (Almost annoyed) I don’t understand this ‘outsider’ word. I don’t belong to just Karnataka, I think I belong to my country. I think of the nation and when you are an activist of a national party then you have to think of the nation as a whole. I have campaigned in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Where do I belong? As an actor I have fans everywhere and if a fan in Tamil Nadu wants to take a selfie with me, can I tell her I am from Karnataka please don’t take it? Actors belong everywhere and so does a politician.
If you think about our Prime Minister, he is from Gujarat but he won his Parliamentary seat from Varanasi. Can one say now that he does not belong to Varanasi? (She frantically searches for the ranking of Varanasi in the cleanest city competition). See what he has done to Varanasi. From a high of over 400, today the city is ranked at 38. But what has the ‘insider’ CM done to Mysuru? He has brought down the ranking from number one to five. May be as an outsider, at times you see issues more objectively.
Nirmala Seetharaman is a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka. She hails from Trichy who went to Delhi to JNU and is now doing such good work as Union Minister and in Karnataka. She chose to take her oath in Parliament in Kannada.
True to the Mysuru culture, as the quintessential ‘Sose’ that I am, surely I will be warmly welcomed and assimilated by its people.
SOM: In your party it has come to such a pass that elections are being won based on the charisma of one leader and the strategy of another. Do you think the same trend will continue in the forthcoming elections in Karnataka?
Malavika: I think no matter one likes it or not BJP has travelled from 2 to 282 in 40 years. It is mainly due to the relentless work of its tall leaders and the sincerity and hard work of the Karyakarthas. Then here is the unbeatable combination of the Prime Minister and the party’s National President who have clocked success after success in elections since 2014 and they have managed to cover 70 per cent of the land mass. Karnataka should be proud and happy that they will be able to do it here also.
The Prime Minister is clear about how to go about electioneering. He says to his party leaders and workers, “Electioneering is no more arithmetic, but a science now.”
SOM: You are also an import from JD(S). Why did you move to BJP?
Malavika: Let me answer this like this. I am no import, but an export that technically lasted in JD(S) for barely eight months. I think, however, the feeling died within a month of joining. I won’t go into the why of it. I will try to draw a corollary. If you have some disagreement with your mother, you will go to the neighbour’s house and after an hour return home. That is all it is. You cannot change what you are inside and you are answerable to your conscience.
It was a deep sense of nationalism that took me to Bellary as a young girl of 23. I did not want an Italian-born to win from Karnataka. Now, that is an ‘outsider’ for me.
SOM: Do you think Mission 150 which is the aim of your party will be accomplished in 2018?
Malavika: As I said earlier, we have two great leaders in our PM Modiji and National President Amit Shah. We are led by an able State President B.S. Yeddyurappa, who at his age, will be touring the State to garner support. Given all the failures of the incumbent Congress Government and the path-breaking development measures of the Central Government, I have no doubt in my mind that just as we won the general elections with a thumping majority in 2014 and the UP elections with even a bigger margin, we will accomplish Mission 150+ in Karnataka too.
SOM: As the party Spokesperson, do you not find it difficult to articulate the current feud between BSY and K.S. Eshwarappa?
Malavika: BJP is a party that stands for high standards of discipline and internal democracy. We have also been trained as Spokespersons not to speak out of turn.
SOM: Don’t you think Eshwarappa continuing with Sangolli Rayanna Brigade is an act of indiscipline.
Malavika: No comments.
SOM: What is the kind of support you enjoy from your husband Avinash who is at heart a Mysuru boy?
Malavika: Avinash is the most non-interfering life partner that one can have. Having said that he has been a Swayam Sevak from the age of eight or nine. He recalls his Shaka days in Vijay Shaka. Incidentally, V. Sreenivasa Prasad was his Mukhya Shikshak and Prasad himself shared this with me when we met at the meeting this morning. His brother who is fondly called Ranganna (Yelandur Ranganath) is about 79 and continues to be an active Swayam Sevak who used to get the young Avinash and his brothers to draw the Deepa, the symbol of the erstwhile Bharatiya Janasangh, on the streets of Mysore.
Among his memories are the trying times of the Emergency when they housed many stalwarts of the Sangh such as H.V. Sheshadri, Su. Ramanna, Yadav Rao Joshiji, Jagannath Rao Joshiji. He studied in Hardwicke High School, then in Yuvaraja’s and Maharaja’s Colleges and did his Master’s and M.Phil in Manasagangothri. He became a lecturer in Mysuru before he took up acting. He and Mysuru are inseparable.
He has grown up with fierce nationalistic ideals but he has zero interest in politics. There is no clash at all. He is only as excited as I am.