Brought back into the party fold after breaking away from the BJP in 2013, Sriramulu was given the parliamentary ticket from Ballari in 2014, which he won comfortably.
Today, four years on, Sriramulu has become the BJP’s face to stir up chief minister Siddaramaiah’s Ahinda (Kannada acronym for minorities, OBCs and Dalits) vote bank with his sway over the scheduled tribes in the state. While the young popular leader had built his fiefdom in Ballari district along with the Reddy brothers, Sriramulu was picked by the central leadership to contest from Molakalmuru in the neighbouring district of Chitradurga.
While signs of rebellion have begun surfacing in that constituency, with Sriramulu’s colleague from BSR Congress and sitting MLA S Thippeswamy openly expressing unhappiness at begin sidelined, the BJP’s intent of capturing two key districts is clearly the reason for giving him the ticket.
Coupled with its efforts to secure the Madiga (SC) vote bank with the “blessings” of the Madara Chennaiyya mutt, ST and Dalit votes will be a key factor for the party to secure six seats in Chitradurga.
According to party sources, the general thinking of the central leadership and national president Amit Shah is to field key leaders who can influence voters outside their “comfort zone”. Sriramulu is being projected by the BJP as the “undisputed” leader of the ST community, and in particular, the Nayakas.
A simple arithmetic of the ST population in Ballari and Chitradurga suggests that the party is looking to woo as many as 8 lakh ST voters into its fold. Both districts have an 18% vote share from the ST community across 15 assembly constituencies in the two districts.
With five of nine segments in Ballari district are reserved, the party has taken a gamble purely on the premise of Sriramulu’s popularity, and fielded him from a reserved constituency of Chitradurga.
The party failed miserably in the 2013 elections in Chitradurga, having lost five of the six constituencies in that district, and another seven from Ballari due to Sriramulu’s break from the BJP. However, BSR Congress managed to secure two seats despite its meagre strength, and only on the Ballari MP’s popularity.