BJP looks to Sriramulu to capture AHINDA votes

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With Congress seeking to build on its AHINDA (minorities, backward classes, Dalits) votebank, the BJP is looking to B Sriramulu, the former associate of mining baron and former minister Janardhan Reddy, as the sole weapon to take away a chunk and retain their clout among these communities. They need him so badly that they are willing to brush aside the public opposition of Lok Sabha leader of Opposition, Sushma Swaraj.

Sriramulu belongs to the Naik or Valmiki community, which according to some estimates, constitutes the second biggest chunk of AHINDA after chief minister Siddaramaiah’s community, the Kurubas. The BJP’s own estimation is that the Naiks form about 7 per cent of the state’s population, forming the largest segment of the state’s scheduled tribes.

“It is not the person or his individual problems that we need to worry about now. If we have to stick to our aim of 272 seats for Narendra Modi, we have no option but to go for Sriramulu to counter the AHINDA consolidation behind Siddaramaiah,” a senior BJP leader told Bangalore Mirror.

Though the party has still not formally announced his candidature for the Bellary Lok Sabha seat, sources said it is almost finalised and was likely to be announced after the central Parliamentary Board meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday. And along with him, the suspension of two sitting MPs, his sister J Shanta and uncle Sanna Fakirappa, will also be revoked, sources said.

Swaraj had tweeted on March 14: “I want to make it absolutely clear that B Sriramulu has been admitted in the party despite my stiff opposition.” One of her followers, Guru Kamat, responded with: “Why were u quiet when the same ppl were pouring money to party.” Another follower Avinash Sharma said: “Please mam, leave the BJP and stay at home for the sake of the country…”

Swaraj’s Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley put it in his usual measured way in his blog, that “who is in and who is out cannot be allowed to dominate the political agenda in the BJP.”

State leaders are going to the extent of comparing Sriramulu to veteran Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar. “Sriramulu is the tallest ST leader in Karnataka. His addition to our voteshare of 33.5 per cent in the 2009 elections, along with the B S Yeddyurappa factor and the Modi wave, is the reason why surveys are giving us 20 seats in Karnataka,” a senior party leader pointed out.

So the BJP is more than willing to overlook the several murder cases against Sriramulu in police stations of Bellary city.

“Who is our alternative to Sriramulu for the MP seat in Bellary? We need him and his clout which covers Bellary, Raichur, Koppal, Chitradurga and Gadag. The Valmikis look up to him as their sole leader,” another leader pointed out.

The result is that Swaraj is facing severe criticism within her party and outside, over her ”two-faced” behaviour. She attended the Varamahalakshmi pooja at Janardhan Reddy’s house in Bellary from 1999 to 2009 without a break. Both Reddy and Sriramulu called her ”thayee” (mother in Kannada). Reddy, it is said, had set aside huge funds to ensure that the BJP would get 272 seats in the Lok Sabha if Swaraj had been projected as the PM candidate.

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