Sriramulu’s exuberance may give BJP the edge in the land of mines
Voters are again seeing two prominent candidates of opposite personalities locked in a big fight in the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency. The slogger is BJP’s B Sriramulu, while the demure person is the Congress candidate N Y Hanumanthappa.
Hanumanthappa, 74, the former chief justice of the Odisha High Court, is not making long speeches or frequenting too many villages in a day. He does not indulged in bashing the BJP or the rival candidate either.
His electioneering is being managed by his family members, the three Congress MLAs under the limits of the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency, and senior party leaders. A major drawback for the Congress here is factionalism.
Yet, Minister P T Parameshwara Naik, MLA Anil Lad, the mining baron, K C Kondaiah, Allum Veerabhadrappa among others are working for the party’s victory so as to ensure their own survival as leaders in the district. Some of them also succeeded in blocking the possible entry of Sriramulu into the Congress, because they did not want to lose their importance here.
The retired judge says that if people find anyone worthier than him, they can choose that person. This he says knowing fully well that none in the fray can match his academic background or legal career.
In contrast, 43-year-old Sriramulu, who was the health minister, is seen and heard in the entire constituency. He is canvassing extensively from dawn to dusk, along with J Shanta, his sister and the sitting BJP MP from Bellary.
His political mentor Janardhana Reddy and his brigade – MLAs T H Suresh Babu, B Nagendra and Anand Singh – all in jail, Sriramulu is a lone fighter. Having been in politics from more than 25 years, Sriramulu has his own ‘army,’ independent of the BJP.
But he knows that, for winning the seat, his Robinhood image alone will not suffice anymore. Hence, he is dropping the name of Narendra Modi. He refrains from taking the name of Janardhana Reddy or Sushma Swaraj, his one-time ‘amma’. Former minister Karunakara Reddy has distanced himself from Sriramulu. But Sriramulu still enjoys the support of Somashekar Reddy.
Revival of the industry
A tour of the district, including in the ore-rich Sandur, a Congress bastion, shows that mining, legal or illegal and the facts and fables related to it, is history. Villagers, who saw cash flow during the peak time of illegal mining, are looking forward for the revival of the industry.
The youth in the constituency, who are semi-literate and belong to the labour class, see Sriramulu as a go-getter and easily accessible.
But the educated lot struggle to find a single constructive contribution to the district from him, except introducing the ‘108’ ambulance service as minister.
People are also unhappy that the Congress, despite having three MLAs in the constituency, has neglected development in this socially and educationally backward district for the last one year. They compare Bellary city to Hampi, the city of ruins.
The Congress hopes that Hanumanthappa may evoke sympathy because he had lost the seat to Shanta by a small margin of 2,245 votes in 2009. It is hoping that the people in the district would vote for them, like they did in the 2013 Assembly elections.
A single entity
But then, the BJP is a single entity now, unlike last year when Sriramulu had severed ties with the party to form the BSR Congress. Former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa too is back in the BJP fold.
If the SC/STs, minorities and Kurubas, who are about two lakh each in number, hold the ‘hand’ en masse, the BJP can forget the seat. However, the combination of Sriramulu and Modi may prove to be too strong a glue for that to happen.