A day with cavalcade of ‘lone warrior’

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Toranagal (Bellary dist): Fan clubs are the mainstay of Sriramulu’s support base in Bellary
B Sriramulu, the BJP candidate for Bellary, looks like a lone warrior when he ventures out on the campaign trail on the dusty roads of the vast barren expanse of Kudithini and Toranagal in the Bellary parliamentary constituency.

He is banking on the Modi mantra for votes and highlighting his long-standing association with the iron ore-rich district to boost his prospects.

On Monday, his roadshow traversed through the villages of Toranagal and in the vicinity of the industrial township of the Jindal Steel Works. En route, he addressed a number of public meetings in the villages. His sister and sitting Bellary MP J Shanta accompanied him. In her speeches, she credited her brother with reviving the State’s health sector by introducing the ‘108’ ambulance service, when he was the health minister.

Youth riding bikes that sported saffron flags, with images of Sriramulu, welcomed him in Sultanpura, Chikka Anthapura and B Anthapura villages. Whenever he saw a group of people, small or moderate, he made it a point to get down from his car and wave his hands to them.

The youths carr­­ied him on their shoulders in Sultanpura. This was accompanied by the bursting of crackers and beating of drums. In a nondescript village on the way, a youth on a bike made it a point to shake hands with him and inform him that the NaMo brigade was working for his victory.

Sriramulu, considered a star campaigner by the party, attracts big crowds in the taluk headquarters. But the numbers dwarf compared with the rallies addressed by top leaders and filmstar politicians in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

The former minister’s campaign vehicle bears the pictures of himself, State and national leaders of the party, including Modi. Sriramulu narrates the rags-to-riches tale of Modi, from being a chaiwala to being anointed the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, to drive home the point that the Gujarat chief minister could indeed be a nation-builder, if elected to the top post.

Terming Manmohan Singh an “ineffective leader,” Sriramulu says that the prime minister could not prevent the onslaught of China and Pakistan on the country. He does not forget to invoke the price rise factor and explaining how home budgets suffered because of that.

The former minister, however, desisted from attacking Chief Minister Siddaramaiah or mentioning the name of his political mentor Janardhan Reddy, who is in jail on charges of illegal mining, during the roadshow. Sushma Swaraj too does not figure in his speeches.

Door-to-door visits

Sriramulu’s rival from the Congress, 74-year-old N Y Hanumanthappa, was confined to interactions with the people in Kampli and Kurugodu on Monday. He has mostly opted for house-to-house visits to seek votes.

His son Vijayakumar campaigned for him in Hospet town. Hanumanthappa, retired chief justice of the Orissa High Court, dismisses Sriramulu as a paper tiger.

Vijayakumar said, “The party is a big strength. The people will back the Congress, as they did in the Assembly polls.”

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