'Sushma dumped us in pursuit of PM post'

In a freewheeling interview with the Deccan Herald, he says senior leader Sushma Swaraj distanced herself from the Reddy brothers and him after she was advised that one could not become the prime minister with “notes, but only with votes”. Excerpts.

DH: You talk about lost self-esteem (swabhimaana), what do you mean?
Sriramulu: When a man who sells flowers is forced to sell firewood, it affects his self-esteem.
Similarly, the pride of a person, who was once at the helm of affairs, is hurt when he is belittled. I am hurt by the treatment meted out to me by the party I helped build, after my name figured in the Lokayukta report.

You have now distanced yourself from the party. How does it feel?
They used us completely to come to power. But after they achieved their goal, they did not need us anymore. They started harassing us.
The Congress party did not demand for a Lokayukta probe into illegal mining till 2010-11. He (Yeddyurappa) just got extremely tempted and ordered for a probe till 2011 and dug his own grave. I was very hurt when I had to leave the party, but I had no choice.

But aren’t you a partner in illegal mining with Janardhana Reddy?
Well, the Lokayukta report says so. I have never bothered about mining. I don’t know if I have been named because I was the director of Obulapuram Mining Company or because of some other reason.

Did mining bring these riches or did politics do?
The money did not come from politics, it came from mining.
Ore, which once fetched only Rs 50 to Rs 60 per kg, started fetching Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 due to the demand in China.
Many mine owners became rich, we did too. But God was more gracious towards us.
We got money, power and we were also young. This made everyone jealous and they conspired against us. The Congress did not want us and now the BJP does not want us either.

Janardhana Reddy was arrested immediately after your resignation. An election at this point, doesn’t it put you in an uncomfortable situation?
I am pained about not having my friend around. I have never faced an election without him.
But one cannot leave politics, when the situation turns bad. I have no choice here.

Didn’t Sushma Swaraj, your “mother”, protect you?
She is ambitious about becoming the prime minister of the country. She knew beforehand that we will be named in the Lokayukta report. May be, she thought this will spoil her chances and decided to keep away from us.
Apparently, an MP told her, “Notonse pradhan mantri nahi bante, votonse pradhan mantri bante hai’ (You cannot become a prime minister with notes, only with votes).
We hear that K C Kondaiah also wrote to her saying she was using illegal money to become the prime minister and would not achieve her ambition thus.

There are rumours that the CBI will soon arrest you. Aren’t you scared?
No. I’m not scared. If I have done something wrong, they can arrest me right away.
I have been to the jail many times and I am not scared of it.

You say power is not permanent, yet you left the party when you did not get a ministerial berth.
After Yeddyurappa resigned, he insisted that Sadananda Gowda be made the chief minister. Ananthkumar, Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh wanted to expel Yeddyurappa from the party. They wanted to name Jagadish Shettar or Eshwarappa as the chief minister, but we spoke to the central leaders and delayed the announcement by three days. We stood by Yeddyurappa.
They promised to make me a minister in Gowda’s cabinet during the expansion, but never did. They belittled those who worked for the party.
We now feel we made a mistake. In spite of the influence we wielded, we chose to stay in our constituency and not play politics in Bangalore. This has led to our political defeat.
Only Karunakar Reddy stayed in Bangalore.

Do you have Karunakar Reddy’s support?
Karunakar Reddy is in Kadapa for a pooja. He has not been available on the phone too and I have decided not to disturb him. But he will support me once he is back.

You whisked away legislators to resorts in the past. Don’t you think this was ostentatious?
We did that during the floods in the State. We were angry with the chief minister for the transfer of officials.
We began to feel that many leaders in the party, including us, were being neglected by Yeddyurappa. To oppose his authoritarian style of functioning, we took 41 legislators to Hyderabad. We came back after Advani and Sushma Swaraj asked us to compromise.
We should not have agreed then. That was a mistake.

There are allegations that the electoral system is corrupt. Is it possible to win without spending money?
There is no way you can win an election without spending money. The Election Commission has fixed an upper limit of Rs 16 lakh as poll expenses for each candidate. How can you even stand for an election with this much?

What are your plans for the future?
For now, I’m contesting as an independent candidate. I need to make a big decision after the results are out. It could be the formation of a new party or something else, but I will decide only after Janardhana Reddy’s release.
BJP has been winning all the recent bypolls. I need to show them my power here.

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