Vicky Nanjappa reports on the Bellary by-election result and its aftermath.
Sriramulu, an associate of the powerful Reddy brothers in Karnataka, proved that Bellary belongs to none other than the brothers. He won the Bellary (rural) assembly by-election by a thumping 46,790 votes.
The big surprise was that the Bharatiya Janata Party came third, losing its deposit; the Congress finished second.
The final tally read: Sriramulu (Independent): 74,527 votes, Ramprasad (Congress): 27,737, Gaadlingappa of the BJP: 17,366.
When counting began at 8.15 am on Sunday morning, Sriramulu, whose election symbol was the ceiling fan, was in the lead all along.
The by-election came about when Sriramulu, a BJP MLA, resigned from the party, stating that he was upset over the manner in which he had been treated by the leadership. He was forced out of the state cabinet along with the Reddy brothers after the illegal mining report implicated him.
He tried to strike a bargain with the BJP leadership, but it failed. First he resigned his assembly seat and when that did not work he quit the party.
Sriramulu told reporters his win has absolved him of all charges. "The people have shown me that I am innocent."
Sriramulu thanked his mentor Gaali Janardhan Reddy, currently in a Hyderabad jail, and said he won the poll thanks to the former's blessings.
The political weather in Karnataka is likely to change after this result.
Sriramulu has already indicated that he will float a regional party after the Bellary outcome.
There is talk the Reddys will float a regional party and then tie up with Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, the leader of the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh.
The BJP in Karnataka says the result will have no impact on the state government. It is believed that Sriramulu will attract MLAs from the BJP which may lead to the dissolution of the Karnataka legislative assembly.
This election was being pitched as a battle between Sriramulu and the BJP. Moreover, B S Yeddyurappa, the former BJP chief minister, had a lot to prove after he was released from jail. He campaigned extensively in Bellary and had proclaimed he would win the seat for the BJP.
"The BJP had forgotten what I have done for them and today I have proven my worth," Sriramulu told a press conference in Bellary. He confirmed he would launch a regional party and an announcement to this effect is expected in coming days.
BJP state President K S Eshwarappa, who is busy protecting the BJP MLAs's flock from poaching by the Reddys, said he is pained by the result. "We will look into this and make corrections," he added. Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, while congratulating Sriramulu on his win, made it clear that there is no danger to his government.
Sriramulu will leave for Hyderabad in a couple of days. He will meet with Janardhan Reddy in jail and then announce the formation of a new party.
The Reddy brothers claim they can pull out at least 25 MLAs from the BJP. However, they will make their moves very cautiously as they would first want some heat off them in the mining scandal.
When contacted by this correspondent, Sriramulu said, "there is no move to topple anyone. I will consult with my friend Janardhan Reddy first and then take any decision. The BJP seems to have forgotten me. I slogged for the party and they dumped me. The people have given me justice today. This is the biggest court."