from Reshma Gopinath
Mandya: Mud-slinging is common in the election arena in India. But in the bypoll to the Lok Sabha constituency here, it has sunk to newer depths with the utterances of former Mandya MLA and JD(S) leader Srinivas.
Srinivas and Ramya
In the Congress camp, there had been a rivalry between the S M Krishna group and the Ambareesh group in putting up their own candidate. Finally, a master-stroke was administered by the party higher-ups by fielding Sandalwood actor Ramya as its candidate and she is being supported by all groups in the party.
Ramya's popularity is well known. She is likely to draw huge crowds at the poll meetings and is thought to have a cakewalk. This has worried her rivals.
But there was a bit of tragedy soon after she filed the nomination paper a week earlier. Her guardian, R T Narayan, fell ill and died the soon after. This shocked her even to the extent of thinking of withdrawing from the contest.
Yet, upon counselling both by Krishna and Ambareesh, she agreed to continue to be in the fray. While she was still in grief, JD(S) leader Srinivas passed some uncharitable comments about her. This has angered not only her party workers and leaders but also all right-thinking citizens.
In his eagerness to run her down and to stress on her lack of experience, Srinivas, at a party workers' meeting in Srirangapatna on Friday, went to the extent of going too personal. Ramya had not mentioned her father's name in the nomination paper and instead written her mother's name. She had also not included the name of her caste. Srinivas took the opportunity to question as to who her father was and termed her a 'test-tube baby'.
Even the enemies of Congress found these remarks utterly uncivil and cheap, esp., aimed at a young woman just stepping into the political field and who was still in grief. Many felt that these remarks would cost JD(S) a few thousands of votes in any case.
Congress leaders right from CM Siddaramaiah to Ambareesh and small-time leaders in Mandya came down heavily on Srinivas and said that it depicted his mindset. There were protests here and effigies were burnt.
JD(S) leaders Devegowda, Kumaraswamy and others tried to do a bit of damage control. Anita Kumaraswamy offered an apology. But the damage was already done. As the saying goes, an arrow shot off a bow and a broken mirror can never be put in its original condition.
Sensing the indignation and backlash which his comments had created, Srinivas on Saturday tendered an unconditional apology. But the scar will remain for long. He explained that he was just referring to the reports that had appeared in the media.
Congress leaders like Motamma have insisted that Ramya sue Srinivas for the libellous comments. Mandya deputy commissioner and election officer Krishnaiah, has served a notice on Srinivas and JD(S) candidate Puttaraju over violation of election code of conduct.
A new twist to the whole issue was added by one Venkatesh Babu, who suddenly appeared out of nowhere and made a public claim in front of the media and in TV studios that he was the biological father of Ramya on Saturday, August 10, saying he was in fact the biological father of Ramya.
He provided the full details of how he got acquainted with Ramya's mother Ranjita in college when her original name was Sunanda, the date and venue of his marriage with her, the details about Ramya's birth and name of the hospital in Sadashivanagar and the like.
There was no explanation about the reason for keeping quiet all these years and the timing of his supposed 'disclosure' at this stage.
On being asked about it, Congress leaders said that they preferred to ignore his claims.
Ramya in the news: