By giving the ticket to Sriramulu, the party leadership has overruled its policy of not fielding MPs in state Assembly polls.

 

A section of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within Karnataka is pushing for projection of senior party leader and MP from Ballari constituency, B. Sriramulu, as the party’s Deputy Chief Ministerial candidate, in order to woo tribals and Dalits, for the upcoming Assembly elections.

The party recently released the list of 72 candidates which includes the name of Sriramulu, who has been asked to contest from Molakalmuru (Chitradurga) constituency. He comes from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) community and has wide acceptability among the Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Dalits as well. Elections are scheduled to be held for the 224-seat Assembly on 12 May.

By giving the ticket to Sriramulu, the party leadership has overruled its policy of not fielding MPs, except  Chief Ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa, in the state Assembly elections. This has sparked speculation that he may be given a key role in case the BJP comes to power. Sources said several party leaders want him to be projected as the Deputy CM candidate.

A state BJP leader said: “Molakalmuru constituency is dominated by Valmiki Nayakas. Sriramulu is considered to be a top leader of the community and could snatch votes from the Congress in Central Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions. Tribals and Dalits have traditionally been voting for the Congress. The move will also help the party woo tribals and Dalits in other parts of the state.” He said the decision to shift Sriramulu to Chitradurga will definitely galvanise the party in these regions dominated by Valmiki Nayakas. There are as many as 11 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in the regions, which have 15 seats. The party has already declared Yeddyurappa, a strong Lingayat leader, as the CM candidate. Support of Lingayats, Dalits and tribals, said the source, can turn out to be a good winning combination. Moreover, it will also correct the image of the party being pro-upper caste. The decision to field Sriramulu has come as a concern for the Congress. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah reportedly called on Valmiki Nayaka leaders and discussed how to counter Sriramulu’s impact.

There has been resentment also by some BJP leaders, especially sitting MLA from Molakalmur, S. Thippeswamy. Sources said, the party leadership will be able to “persuade” the MLA to abide by the decision. BJP president Amit Shah, during a visit to Chitradurga, addressed a meeting of tribals. He garlanded the statute of a community leader Madakari Nayaka.

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