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Political star war on Sholay battlefield

india Updated: Apr 24, 2008 02:16 IST
BR Srikanth

This script won’t be a sellout like Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay, but it certainly holds the promise of a ‘star war’ of sorts.

The protagonists: children of two former chief ministers, leaders who jointly steered the first non-Congress government in Karnataka in 1983 and repeated the feat in 1994 but fell out after a couple of years.

The locale: Ramanagaram or Ramgarh, with its rocky environs, where most of Sholay was shot in 1970s.

On Wednesday, former CM Ramakrishna Hegde’s daughter Mamatha Nichani entered the fray as the Congress’s nominee and will lock horns with former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy, who is a former CM. Her candidature was the best-kept secret among Congress leaders and released at the eleventh hour for nominations for phase one of elections to the Assembly that closed today.

The party picked her ahead of other local leaders because of three interesting factors: post-delimitation, a significant part of neighbouring Kanakapura constituency has become a part of this key seat. The late Hegde was elected to the Assembly from Kanakapura in a bypoll in 1983 and therefore his daughter could sway voters in her favour. Second, Kumaraswamy’s bete noire D.K. Shivakumar, the Congress nominee for Kanakapura, could help from his bastion next door. Third, a prediction by an astrologer that Kumaraswamy would be defeated by a woman candidate.

A rookie in politics, Mamatha admits it is a challenge to take on a former chief minister. “I know it’s a tough call, but when they offered me (party nomination forms), I found it challenging and took it forward. He (Kumaraswamy) will be like any other opponent. I have not met him so far. I will go round the town today and meet as many people as possible. Perhaps, our campaign will commence from April 27.”

As for the astrologer’s prediction, Mamata said she heard about it this morning. No one in the Congress would reveal the name.

On his part, Kumaraswamy said: “She is welcome to contest. I don’t want to say anything now. I know the Congress has done it because of astrology, but I am confident that I will win.”

Mamata faced opposition from local leaders, particularly the Mahila Congress, who did not like the idea of an outsider taking on a former chief minister. She, however, was confident of dealing with irate party workers. “It is natural that they are upset about an outsider coming in. It will be sorted out in due course.”