Actor-turned-politician Sumalatha Ambareesh, who is also one of the only four independent MPs in the 17th Lok Sabha and the first Independent woman MP from Karnataka, recently made it clear that she wants to see half the house filled with women MPs in parliament. “We have debated a lot about providing 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha. But why not 50 per cent? I would love to see half of the members in the House to be women,” the MP from Mandya seat of Karnataka said in a recent interview.
She also spoke about her first day in the parliament and the challenges and benefits of being an independent MP as she said, “My first time at Parliament was like the first day at school or college. It was a mix of nervousness and excitement. The learning curve, however, is exciting,” she said.
She added that while there are several challenges of being an independent candidate, she also asserted that it empowers her too as she can freely raise the issues of her constituency independently. In terms of issues that will take precedence in her priority list for Mandya, the revival of lakes issue is on top.
“During my campaign, I saw that many lakes have dried up. Women have to walk several miles to fill water to meet their daily requirement. I have already met the Jal Shakti Minister and have submitted a memorandum in this regard.
“Mandya is a sugarcane growing belt. The farmers are not getting proper price for their produce; I want to raise this issue on priority. Connectivity and road infrastructure is another area of concern, which I would like to bring the government's attention to,” she noted.
Sumalatha only became interested in politics after her husband Kannada actor-politician Ambareesh passed away last year. He was the MP of Mandya and that’s what pushed Sumalatha to take on the Lok Sabha elections and give a shot at contesting from the constituency. Her husband was a member of Congress party and so she also sought a Congress ticket to fight from the constituency but the Congress disappointed her after which she decided to contest independently.
“We have debated a lot about providing 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha. But why not 50 per cent? I would love to see half of the members in the House to be women,”
“It was a long battle to victory, as I was contesting against the Chief Minister's son. The eight legislators in the parliamentary constituency were also from the ruling party of the state. A vitriolic campaign was launched against me and I was called an outsider, entering the political fray just months before the elections,” she said.
Talking about support, she said that she got encouragement from unexpected places as BJP did not field a candidate against her. “I received immense support from my people and I am grateful for that. I defeated my rival by 1.2 lakh votes in my debut election. I was disillusioned after my husband's death, but this win has given me immense hope to carry my husband's legacy forward.”
Lastly, Sumalatha responded to a question regarding her comeback on the celluloid and said, “Going back to the film industry would depend upon the kind of projects I receive. But serving my people comes first and I want to concentrate on that right now.”