The Bharatiya Janata Party's decision to field B Sriramulu, an MP from Ballari district, in Molakalmuru in Chitradurga, has raised eyebrows in the state due to his close relations with the infamous Reddy brothers.
Sriramulu has been moved out of the Ballari district for the first time and is now set to contest in Molakalmuru, which is dominated by Valmiki Naiks (also spelt Nayakas). Sriramulu, considered the top leader of the community, will be looking to sway votes in this Congress bastion.
By giving him the ticket, the party has also overruled its policy of not fielding MPs other than chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa.
Sriramulu is also considered to be a close aide of the Reddy brothers – Karunakara, Janardhana and Somashekhar Reddy – and the decision to field him in Molakalmuru appears linked to the party's attempt to consolidate power in the region by using the influence of these brothers.
The political fortunes of the three brothers took a hit when they were named by Lokayukta Santosh Hegde in the mining scam in 2011, but in recent years Karunakara and Somashekhar have managed to come out of political oblivion.
While BJP National President Amit Shah, during his recent visit to Mysuru, said the party had nothing to do with Janardhana Reddy, it appears that the family's political history and influence will continue to play a part in the politics of the region.
"There is a condition that Janardhana Reddy should not come to Ballari, so there is talk of him helping Sriramulu in Molakalmuru. He had come to see a house in Rampura and considered working out of here," said Puttaswamy, a journalist based in Chitradurga.
A relative of Sriramulu, Nagendra, meanwhile, is a candidate to contest from Ballari rural for the Congress.
Karunakara Reddy is looking to secure a party ticket from Harapanahalli in Ballari district and Somashekar is looking to win a ticket from Ballari City.
The BJP released its first list of candidates for the 2018 Karnataka elections confirming 72 contestants in the 224-seat Assembly in the state. But the party is yet to announce its candidates from Ballari city or Harapanahalli constituencies.