Testing political waters in a Janata Dal (Secular) bastion – more specifically, his family's bastion – has not proved fruitful for 33-year-old Nikhil Kumaraswamy, who lost the Karnataka Assembly elections with a margin of 10,715 votes on Saturday, 13 May.
After a failed electoral debut in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the actor-politician contested his maiden Assembly polls on Wednesday, 10 May, from Ramanagara constituency – where his grandfather HD Deve Gowda emerged victorious in 1994, becoming the chief minister of Karnataka. Deve Gowda went on to become the prime minister of India two years later.
The president of JD(S) Youth Wing, Nikhil is also the son of former Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy and Ramanagara MLA Anitha Kumaraswamy, who vacated the constituency for Nikhil.
In Ramanagara, the young politician faced off against Congress' Iqbal Hussain and BJP’s Gautham Gowda, who polled 87,690 and 12,912 votes, respectively.
2019 Lok Sabha Defeat
Nikhil contested his first elections in 2019 from the Mandya constituency – only to be defeated by Congress' Sumalatha Ambareesh by a margin of 128,876 votes. Sumalatha, a popular actress, is the wife of veteran Karnataka star Ambareesh.
In the past, Mandya was considered a stronghold for the erstwhile alliance between Congress and JD(S), with the former being the most dominant party in the district.
In a recent interview with The Indian Express, Nikhil had said he did not consider his 2019 poll defeat as a 'defeat' and had accused the Congress and the BJP of "coming together" to ensure that he lost Mandya.
He had also alleged that this time, in Ramanagara too, "the same thing is happening." "The BJP and Congress have aligned together to defeat me," he had claimed.
Ramanagara and the Deve Gowda Family
According to political observers, winning Ramanagara constituency was supposed to be a "cakewalk" for Nikhil, as his family has been holding the fort for a long time.
In fact, JD(S) has been in Ramanagara for the last 29 years.
After Deve Gowda's win in 1994, Nikhil's father Kumaraswamy emerged victorious in 2004, 2008, and 2013. During the 2018 elections, Kumaraswamy contested from both Ramanagara and Channapatna, both located in the Old Mysuru region, and emerged victorious in both constituencies.
Subsequently, he relinquished his position in Ramanagara to his wife, Anitha, who won the constituency in a by-election in 2018.
"I don't want to define it as a cakewalk or anything else. An election is an election and we don't know how things go even if people like us. There are many aspects to it, many equations to it, as there is a BJP candidate and a Congress candidate against me as well," Nikhil had said in an interview with News18.
"I am in constant interaction with the people of my constituency. It is not new to me. Beyond politics, the people of Ramanagara see my father as a 'son of their home'. They also see me in the same way. They have expectations from me as a youngster and about the kind of development and changes I can bring to the constituency."Nikhil Kumaraswamy, in an interview with The Indian Express
During his campaigning, Nikhil had told media that education and health were his top priorities for Ramanagara. "However, I have different visions for Ramanagara town and the rural areas. In rural areas, it is farmers' issues and irrigation. When it comes to the town, there are problems related to irrigation," he had told The Indian Express.
He had also said he wanted to bring the Metro Rail to Ramanagara. "The Metro is needed because this has been the ask of the people when I visit them. Many youngsters work in Bengaluru and travel up and down for work. The Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway (toll) is also expensive and commuters travelling to Ramanagara will end up paying Rs 9,000-Rs 10,000 per month," he had further said.
In addition to being a politician, Nikhil is also a popular Kannada actor who has acted in films like Jaguar, Rider, Seetharama Kalyana, among others. When asked in an interview with Deccan Herald whether he would step away from his movie career on entering politics, he had said:
"No way! Two of my films are ready and I'll talk about them after election. Cinema is my profession and I've proved that I can achieve something outside politics. But I have politics in my blood. I've taken a break from cinema."