After the BJP named Ballari MP B Sriramulu as the party’s candidate from Molakalmuru, the constituency’s incumbent MLA S Thippeswamy — also with the BJP — announced that he would contest as an independent candidate.
BJP’s decision to name Sriramulu in their first list of candidates did not go down well with Thippeswamy’s supporters, who attacked Sriramulu’s car when he visited Molakalmuru on Friday. Police officials detained 25 people in connection with the incident.
BJP’s problems are far from resolved as Thippeswamy made the announcement of his intention to contest as an independent in a meeting with his supporters at Neralkunte village in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga, according to The Hindu. He is also considering the possibility of contesting for a different party.
Incidentally, Thippeswamy was once a staunch supporter of Sriramulu. He had earlier walked out of the BJP in 2011 along with Sriramulu, who formed a separate party - the Badavara Shramikara Raithara (BSR) Congress. Thippeswamy contested and won from Molakalmuru in 2013 as a BSR Congress candidate. Sriramulu rejoined the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, and Thippeswamy followed him in 2015.
The bone of contention between the two emerged soon after BJP released its first list of candidates on April 8. Sriramulu was moved from Ballari district to Molakalmuru while Thippeswamy was named as the candidate from Chitradurga constituency.
Sriramulu is considered a top leader of the Valmiki Naik community, a prominent community in Molakalmuru.
Sriramulu’s closeness to the Reddy brothers – Karunakara, Janardhana and Somashekhar Reddy – is viewed as another reason for BJP’s decision to shift Sriramulu. The Reddy brothers were named in the infamous mining scam of 2011 by Lokayukta Santosh Hegde.
BJP National President Amit Shah looked to distance the party from the tainted Reddy brothers — particularly Janardhana Reddy — in a recent interaction with the press in Mysuru. However, Muralidhar Rao, the party's in-charge for Karnataka, told News18 that they cannot stop Janardhana Reddy from campaigning.
Janardhana Reddy is prohibited from entering Ballari district as per his bail conditions, but he is set to stay in Molakalmuru and back Sriramulu’s candidature ahead of the elections.
What might have been considered a ‘masterstroke’ has now unravelled into a damage-control situation for the BJP in Molakalmuru.
The BJP now has a decision on its hands in its bid to reverse a humiliating defeat to the Congress in Chitradurga in 2013. Congress had won four out of six seats in the district and unless the BJP can find a solution to its problem in Molakalmuru, the party faces an uphill battle in Chitradurga.