Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday named B. Sriramulu, a close aide of mining barons, the Reddy brothers, as its candidate from Badami assembly constituency to take on Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, inviting sharp comments from the Congress.
Sriramulu filed his nomination from the North Karnataka constituency with just about an hour left for close of nominations. Like Siddaramaiah, he too is set to contest two seats in the 12 May assembly polls.
Political parties scrambled to name candidates on Tuesday, the last day of nominations. Siddaramaiah also filed his nomination from Badami, a seat he was asked to contest at the insistence of his party’s high command, on Tuesday.
The BJP decided to field Sriramulu from two seats, Molakalmuru and Badami, while it reached an arrangement with the Janata Dal (Secular) to take on Siddaramaiah in his second constituency, Chamundeshwari.
The BJP, considered the main opposition to the Congress’ bid for a second consecutive term in office, has been scrambling for candidates in many constituencies. While a large number of voters in Badami are Valmikis, a Scheduled Tribe, the Congress is banking on support from the Kuruba community, who too make up a sizeable percentage of voters.
“They (BJP) want to make it a tough fight for Siddaramaiah and confine him to campaigning in these two seats," A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University, said. The Congress was banking on Siddaramaiah to mobilize support across the state, he added.
The BJP’s decision to field Sriramulu drew sharp criticism from the Congress party, which alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP was the “benefactor, protector, defender" of the “Ballari gang"—a reference to the border district where the Reddy brothers are alleged to have been involved in illegal iron ore mining.
“Would PM and BJP president explain this sinister conspiracy to put a lid on loot of public money and plundering of natural resources as also the reason for giving 8 BJP tickets to ‘Reddy brothers and associates," Randeep Singh Surjewala, spokesperson for the Congress, said in a statement.
Chimmanakatti Balappa Bhimappa of the Congress won by a margin of 15,113 votes in 2013 from Badami. However, the BJP had held the seat for two consecutive terms from 2004-2013.
The BJP also named eight other candidates, some replacements, for the polls.
The Congress also witnessed high drama within its ranks as M.H. Ambareesh, a popular Kannada actor and the party’s incumbent legislator from Mandya, decided to opt out of the race, prompting the party to give the ticket to Ganiga Ravi Kumar.
Incumbent cabinet minister and senior Congress leader M.R. Seetharam also decided against contesting this year’s polls. Ambareesh and Seetharam had figured in the Congress party’s first list.
The BJP named T. Basavaraj as its candidate from Varuna, Siddaramaiah’s constituency for two terms from 2008-2013. Basavaraj was named after BJP state president B.S. Yeddyurappa announced that his second son B.Y. Vijayendra will not be contesting from the constituency against Yathindra Siddaramaiah, the chief minister’s son. Angry supporters attacked BJP offices in Mysuru on Tuesday over the decision not to field Vijayendra.
The state election commission will scrutinize all nominations on Wednesday.