Bangalore: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka Wednesday faced a major crisis as arrested mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy moved to prove the hold he and his brothers have over Bellary by propping up a rebel candidate for a by-poll in the iron-ore rich district.
Lodged in Hyderabad`s Chanchalaguda jail since Sep 5, Reddy is fielding his associate and former health minister B. Sriramulu as an independent candidate in the Nov 30 by-poll to the Bellary rural assembly seat reserved for Scheduled Tribes. Bellary is about 300 km from here.
The by-poll follows Sriramulu quitting the assembly in September claiming his `image` was damaged by the then Lokayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde indicting him in an illegal mining scam.
However, the real reason for him to leave the assembly was said to be his unhappiness at not being made a minister in the D.V. Sadananda Gowda cabinet that succeeded the B.S. Yeddyurappa ministry Aug 4.
Yeddyurappa quit July 31 after Hegde recommended his trial for corruption in the illegal mining case.
Hegde had also indicted Janardhana Reddy and his elder brother G. Karunakara. Karunakara was also not made a minister again nor anyone else whom Janardhana Reddy wanted, leaving the brothers fuming.
Sriramulu, who met Janardhana Reddy in the Chanchalaguda jail Tuesday, announced in Bellary Wednesday that he will contest the Nov 30 bypoll as an independent.
He was flanked by his sister J. Shanta, a BJP Lok Sabha member and Janardhana`s younger brother G. Somashekara Reddy, a BJP assembly member.
In a clever attempt, Somashekara Reddy appealed to the BJP not to field a party candidate against Sriramulu.
However, the BJP is unlikely to agree to Somashekara`s appeal and is expected to announce its candidate later Wednesday.
In Bangalore, state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa told reporters that Sriramulu has the freedom to take any decision.
"I have not heard from him on his decision (to contest as an independent). The party will take a decision soon on fielding a candidate," he said.
Eshwarappa also said that if Sriramulu files nomination papers as an independent, he faces expulsion from the party.