While B Sriramulu, once considered a trusted lieutenant of the mining barons from Bellary, the Reddy brothers, announced re-joining the BJP recently, senior party leader Sushma Swaraj seems vehemently opposed to it, putting the party in a spot of bother. Vicky Nanjappa reports.
Sriramulu, an accused in the mining scam, had left the Bharatiya Janata Party to form the Badava Shramika Raitha Congress party, had said that his return to the party has been cleared by party president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Sushma Swaraj.
A while ago, Swaraj who had once called Sriramulu her ‘son’ tweeted, "I am opposed to an alliance with the BSR or it merger with the BJP in Karnataka. I have conveyed to Raj Nath Singhji in writing that BJP must not permit this."
These conflicting statements have put the Karnataka BJP in a spot of bother. They were desperate to rope in Sriramulu and had even finalised it three days ago. Sriramulu had made this announcement before his party workers and the press at Bellary
The state BJP unit won’t take Swaraj’s statement lightly. Now it is being decided that they would not openly show an alliance and could enter into a post-poll arrangement with Sriramulu.
Political observers say that the BJP needs to be careful while picking its allies. Bringing back former chief minister Yeddyurappa has not gone down too well with the urban voter, but the BJP decided to take this risk since he could make a difference in the Lingayat-dominated northern Karnataka, and also his home town of Shimoga
There is no comparing Yeddyurappa with Sriramulu. The BJP may not lose much if it takes Sriramulu along. The illegal mining scam is still fresh in the minds of the voters and the Sriramulu is the closest associate of the Reddy brothers (Janardhana Reddy, G Karunakara Reddy and G Somashekara Reddy) -- especially Janardhan. There was an outrage against the Reddy brothers across the state after they held the Yeddyurappa government hostage for a few transfers in Bellary and also their brazen acts in the mining scam.
Thanks to them, Bellary attained the title ‘Republic of Bellary’ and this was not coined in the right spirit.
After his name cropped up in the mining scam and the BJP dropped him from the cabinet, Sriramulu decided to quit and float his own party. He managed to win four seats after floating 175 candidates.
Why does the BJP want him back?
The BJP expects him to make a difference in one or two constituencies at Bellary and Raichur. The BJP would like to field him from the Bellary seat where he will be up against N Y Hanumanthappa from the Congress, who is a strong contender, and the Reddy brothers know this very well.
In the 2009 elections, the Reddy brothers had fielded their sister Shantha as the candidate in Bellary, and she managed to win against Hanumanthappa by a little over 2,000 votes. Not a very good performance, considering the clout the Reddys had at that time.
This time around, the scenario is different and Sriramulu is on the back foot, compared with 2009. Although he may manage to just scrape through, he will have to slug it out in Bellary.
The BJP however does not appear to be looking at both Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu for the few constituencies they can win. In the 2013 assembly poll, Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha and Sriramulu’s BSR Congress inflicted heavy blows on the BJP especially in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region and Shimoga.
The BSR Congress party polled 19.35 per cent of the votes in Bellary, 10.25 in Raichur and 7.30 in Koppal. Ironically, for the BJP, all these were originally their voters. The BJP feels that by bringing him back, they could regain their lost vote share.
The only thing that the BJP needs to watch out for is that this merger should not have its impact among the voters in the other parts of the state where the Reddy brothers and Sriramulu are not viewed too fondly.