Ramanagaram (Karnataka): She might have a tough opponent in H D Kumaraswamy, former chief minister and son of the still-powerful former prime minister H D Deve Gowda. But Mamatha Nichani is no pushover either as she steps into Karnataka's electoral battlefield to carry on the legacy of her father and former chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde.
The debutante politician who is contesting the Ramanagaram assembly seat on May 10 on the Congress ticket is determined to wrest it from Kumaraswamy and his Janata Dal (Secular).
Chosen as a surprise candidate at the last minute, Mamatha is pulling out all the stops to ensure that voters in Ramanagaram, about 40 km from the state capital Bangalore, will maintain their record of not electing the same candidate again.
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"Though the nomination to contest from such a key constituency came as a surprise to me, I am game for the heat and dust of a poll campaign. Win or lose, I am here to prove a point, counting on my father's legacy and blessings to carry on his good work," Mamatha told IANS after a gruelling door-to-door campaign in about 20 villages, a dozen roadside meetings and a few public rallies thrown in too.
With the backing of her party leaders and hundreds of enthusiastic cadres, the 51-year-old has been campaigning for over 12 hours a day, covering as many as 50-60 semi-urban and rural areas, a part of the Bangalore Rural parliamentary constituency after delimitation.
Enthused by the goodwill of the people, especially the women, and the fond memories her father evokes even a generation after he represented the assembly constituency in 1983, Mamatha hopes to make a point to her rival, who has also nursed the constituency as a pocket borough since Deve Gowda represented it in 1994-96.
"It is my first experience in electoral politics. I come from a political family. My late father, who was chief minister for nearly six years (1983-88), is still remembered for the development he did for the state, particularly Ramanagaram, which was part of the Kanakapura assembly segment before delimitation.
"I understand that I am pitted against a powerful opponent who represented the constituency last time (2004-2007) and went on to become the state chief minister. Anyway, I would have an opponent anywhere I had contested. In this case it is Kumaraswamy," Mamatha asserted confidently.
She refutes the opposition's charge that the Congress chose her to counter an astrological prediction that Kumaraswamy or any male member of his Gowda family would lose to a woman candidate.
"Of course, I believe a lot more women must enter politics to empower their ilk and contest in local body, civic corporation, assembly and parliamentary elections for achieving gender equality. As I have been given a chance, I will strive for more women representation in all spheres, especially in legislative and executive wings."
Admitting that the going has been tough, thanks to the dos and don'ts of the Election Commission, which has deployed a number of poll observers to trail contestants like her, Mamatha said the neglect of interior areas, especially in terms of basic infrastructure such as roads, power and water, was turning the tide against Kumaraswamy.
Kumaraswamy was chief minister for 20 months from February 2006 to October 2007 with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a coalition partner.
"In such a scenario, I am sure the rural electorate, especially women, will cast their ballot in my favour so that I can carry on from where my father left."
The credibility factor should also work in her favour, she feels, with Kumaraswamy known to have brought on instability when he backtracked on his promise to give up power to the BJP after 20 months.
"People are yearning for a stable and progressive government, which only the Congress can give. They are fed up of unstable governments and coalition politics, which have denied them a share of inclusive growth."