In Karnataka, BJP dissident seeks to wreck Janardhana Reddy’s return to politics
Chitradurga district is a part of what looks like endless flatlands of Central Karnataka. About four kilometres from Molkalmuru in the arid plains of Chitradurga district, a bus with the picture of B Sriramulu, the BJP’s candidate from the assembly constituency for the May 12 polls, stands next to a farm.
Upon entering the compound, three buildings make way for a bungalow in the back. A crowd of 300 is waiting near this house, most of them outside in the heat. A few others are waiting inside near a staircase guarded by three bouncers, who ward off the impatient.
These people are waiting to meet the leader of the BJP campaign in Molkalmuru, not Sriramulu, his mentor G Janardhana Reddy.
At about 4 pm, Reddy comes out of his room on the first floor and heads to the garden where he is scheduled to participate in an interview. Over the past few months, Reddy has been living in this rented bungalow because the Supreme Court (SC) has banned him from entering Ballari district.
An accused in an illegal mining case, Reddy was arrested under illegal mining charges twice over – once in 2011 and then again in 2015. He was granted bail by the SC in 2015. It had banned his entry to ensure that he doesn’t influence witnesses or tamper with evidence. This was one of the clauses laid out in his bail.
Sitting about 10 km from the district border, Reddy has decided to manage Sriramulu’s campaign.
Sriramulu, accompanied by Reddy, BJP chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa and MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, had earlier on Saturday filed his nomination. BJP leaders said that Sriramulu had been shifted from the Ballari Rural to Molkalmuru seat, both reserved for candidates from Schedule Tribe (ST) communities, because of the higher percentage of STs in the constituency. According to Election Commission data, tribals form about 37% of Molkalmuru’s population. However, a local leader, who did not wish to be named, said the decision was highly influenced by the fact that Reddy was there.
However, the BJP faces a tough challenge here because its incumbent legislator S Thippeswamy, angered by the party’s decision to not field him from the constituency, has vowed to defeat Sriramulu.
“Both Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu had promised me the ticket. They are liars. Sriramulu has decided to loot this taluk, the same way he looted Ballari along with Reddy,” Thippeswamy said, adding that he would contest as an independent. “I will definitely defeat Sriramulu, maybe then he will know the price of betrayal.”
However, Reddy has been able to pull off a coup himself, having got the senior Congress leader NY Gopalkrishna who had won the seat in 2008, to defect to the BJP. “When the Congress humiliated me, it was Reddy, who came to my house and showed me humanity,” Gopalakrishna says.
Sanna Papaiah, a farmer, says the main problem is acute drinking water crisis. “I don’t want to hear them talk about how they were betrayed. Last time, Thippeswamy and Sriramulu sought votes because the BJP had betrayed them and they had formed the Badavara Shramikara Raithara Congress (BSRC). Now, Thippeswamy says he has been betrayed by Sriramulu. I want to know where is the water to feed the goats I have?” Papaiah says. Local farmer leader Karianna said the Upper Bhadra project that seeks to divert water to the region has been pending for a while.
“Both the BJP and Congress governments have given away our lands to industry. But these are not the issues that will be discussed in this election season,” he said.
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