Ambareesh was ‘rebel star’ in politics, too

Ambareesh was ‘rebel star’ in politics, too

“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 HD Deve Gowda who is in Kanyakumari one day, Delhi the next day and then Raichur.” 

This was a news conference Ambareesh 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. 

Ambareesh, a Vokkaliga, was at the peak of his film career when Deve Gowda launched him politically. It was the byelections to the Ramanagara Assembly segment in 1996, which Deve Gowda vacated after he became prime minister. Ambareesh fought that election on a Janata Dal ticket and lost to Congress’ CM Lingappa. Still, Ambareesh had arrived. 

Read Also: Karnataka's 'Rebel Star' Ambareesh passes away at 66

He joined the Congress in 1999 and has fought five elections since. Ambareesh went on to get elected to the Lok Sabha several times and was a Union minister in the Manmohan Singh government. True to his ‘Rebel Star’ moniker, Ambareesh resigned in 2007 in solidarity with the farmers of his Mandya constituency over the Cauvery water dispute. He had similarly resigned as MP in 2002, again on the Cauvery issue. 

Ambareesh's political record
1996 - Contests Ramanagar Assembly bypoll on Janata Dal ticket, loses.
1998 - Contests Mandya Lok Sabha election on Janata Dal ticket, wins.
1999 - Contests Mandya Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket, wins.
2004 - Contests Mandya Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket, wins.
2008 - Contests Srirangapatna Assembly election on Congress ticket, loses.
2009 - Contests Mandya Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket, loses.
2013 - Contests Mandya Assembly election on Congress ticket, wins.

Ambareesh was the Housing minister in the previous Siddaramaiah-led Congress government. When he was dropped from the Cabinet in 2016 for poor performance, a miffed Ambareesh resigned. 

Ambareesh 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, Ambareesh was touted as a chief ministerial candidate. “I’ve been a chief ministerial candidate for 15 years,” Ambareesh said in February this year. “I won’t say no if the opportunity comes my way. But it’s not god to have any hopes, because you get hurt when they get dashed.”