Bellary bypoll a battle of prestige for BJP



Bangalore: The November 30 bypoll to Bellary (Rural) Assembly segment in Karnataka is truly prestigious to ruling BJP that is up against a formidable independent candidate B Sriramulu, the party's "charismatic leader" in the region not so long ago.

Sriramulu spurned BJP's offer to field him after consulting G Janardhana Reddy, his close associate currently lodged in Chanchalaguda jail in Hyderabad after being arrested by the CBI in connection with illegal mining probe.

He is being backed by a section of BJP MLAs, including G Somashekhara Reddy (Janardhana's brother) in the mineral-rich Bellary, as also his sister and Bellary Lok Sabha member J Shantha and Raichur MP, Phakirappa, his cousin, but the party has chosen not to act against them now, lest it would precipitate matters.

Sriramulu quit his Assembly seat after the Lokayukta mining report indicted him along with Janardhana Reddy and his brother G Karunkara Reddy, among others, contending that his pride has been hurt by it.

Following the report, the BJP did not give the trio ministerial berths, and Sriramulu, a former Health Minister, later gave vent to his anger against the BJP, slamming it for not coming to the aid of Janardhana Reddy when he needed it most.

Karunakara has kept a low-profile after being denied the berth and is not seen campaigning for Sriramulu but it's an open secret that the once-powerful and resourceful Reddy brothers, who wielded considerable influence and played a part in BJP coming to power in the state, are backing him.

BJP has responded to the challenge thrown up by Sriramulu, and it's leaving no stone unturned to win the battle royale, with several ministers already campaigning in the constituency.

Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who earlier kept everybody guessing as to whether he would campaign, would now be canvassing against Sriramulu, who had raised a banner of revolt against him along with the Reddy brothers two years ago.

The BJP has fielded P Gadilingappa, and the Congress Ramprasad in the three-way contest that has generated considerable attention.

In a surprise move, JDS state unit President and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said he would campaign for Sriramulu. JDS of former Prime Minister HD Devegowda does not have a significant voter base in the segment.

PTI