When the BJP announced its first list of 72 candidates for the Karnataka election, there was a surprise. B Sriramulu the strongman from Ballari was given a ticket from Molakalmur in Chitradurga.
Sriramulu had first represented Ballari city for one term before shifting to Ballari rural which was among the five seats reserved for Schedule Tribes post the delimitation of constituencies. He won from this seat thrice- 2008, 2011 (by-election) and in 2013 on a BSR Congress ticket, a party that he had formed after falling out with the BJP.
What one needs to note here is that he was instrumental in ensuring the victories of three of his candidates in the last election from Molakalmur, Kampli and Kudachi in Belagavi.
Molakalmur borders both the Davangere and Ballari region and the population among the Nayaka community is very high. Sriramulu is considered to be the undisputed leader of the Valmiki Nayaka community. He has often been termed as the saviour of the community.
Pulling out Sriramulu from Ballari would mean that the party gets to expand its vote share about the Nayaka community in Chitradurga, Raichur and Gulbarga. Further, he would also oversee Ballari for the BJP. Sriramulu would want to ensure the 2008 performance of the BJP in Ballari when the party won 8 out of the total 9 seats.
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Sriramulu would have a bigger role to play in the elections. He would be the one taking Siddaramaiah head-on on his AHINDA policy ( Kannada acronym for minorities, OBCs and Dalits). Chitradurga which has six seats would be crucial for the BJP. The Dalit and ST votes play a key factor here and Sriramulu being an ST would help the BJP secure these votes, the party feels.
Sriramulu has been portrayed as the undisputed leader of the ST community. The party felt that such strong leaders must be moved out of their comfort zone so that they can influence a larger number of votes outside their original constituency. The BJP is also toying with the idea of projecting Sriramulu as the deputy chief minister candidate in a bid to bag the ST votes.
If one takes a look at the numbers in Ballari and Chitradurga, there are around 8 lakh ST votes. The vote share in the 15 assembly constituencies in both Ballari and Chitradurga add up to 18 per cent. In addition to this five assembly segments in Ballari are reserved.
Further, the party has also taken note that it had failed miserably in Chitradurga in 2013. It managed to win just one out of the six seats that it contested. In Ballari too the BJP lost seven of the seats thanks to the internal bickering and Sriramulu quitting the party.
The BJP has taken a huge gamble, but party insiders are confident that this would pay off. The one point is that by fielding Sriramulu, the party is looking at his influence over the voter, especially the ST community in both Ballari as well as Chitradurga.
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|