Bengaluru:If Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah is defeated in the Badami constituency of North Karnataka, his decline would most likely mean the rise of a giant killer—Ballary Sriramulu.

The BJP appeared headed for a simple majority in the Karnataka elections on Tuesday, with its candidates leading in 115 constituencies, leaving the ruling Congress way behind, according to the latest trends available for 220 of the state’s 222 seats where polling was held.

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Irrespective of what the results throw up in terms of who rules Karnataka, Sriramulu would have earned himself a big profile if he slays Siddaramaiah in Badami. If that happens, Sriramulu’s political journey that began from Navy Nagar ward number 34 in Ballari city, would reach a milestone that may determine not only his political future but also redefine his position in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka.

Both Siddaramaiah and Sriramulu are contesting from two constituencies each but it is the victory or loss in Badami that could end one career and catapult another into a higher orbit. For B. Sriramulu, who is also contesting from Molakalmuru in Chidradurga district, the Badami battle came as a special assignment by the BJP after Siddaramaiah chose the constituency as a back-up pocket-borough after things got a little tough in Chamundeshwari. The BJP fielded its MP from Bellary in Badami, conscious of the latter’s popularity among the Scheduled Tribes—Sriramulu belongs to the Valmiki Nayaka community, one of the STs in Karnataka—and also his financial muscle. If Siddaramaiah’s entry made Badami a high-profile contest, Sriramulu added competition to the contest.

Sriramulu is close to the controversial mining baron G. Janardhan Reddy. In fact, his political career, especially since 2010 when the illegal mining of iron ore in the Ballary region came to light, has followed pretty much the same trajectory as that of the controversial Bellary brothers, the main protagonists of the illegal mining saga.

Somashekhar Reddy, the elder brother of Janardhan Reddy and the BJP candidate from Ballari city constituency, recalls how Sriramulu “suffered in 2011 only because of his friendship with Janardhan Reddy when there was direct allegation against himself". In late 2011 after he was dropped from the Yeddyurappa cabinet as the mining scam unfolded, Sriramulu formed his own party called Badavara Shramikara Raitara Congress Party.

He warmed up to the BJP ahead of the 2014 general elections though Sushma Swaraj, then leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, opposed Sriramulu’s return to the BJP. What then worked in Sriramulu’s favour was that the Ballary Lok sabha constituency was reserved for an ST candidate. The BJP fielded Sriramulu in 2014 and he won by nearly 85,000 votes.

Somashekhar Reddy believes Sriramulu would win from both the seats. “He is very popular among the poor, has done many things for them. It was Sriramulu who was instrumental in getting the Yeddyurappa government to declare Valmiki Jayanti as a holiday in 2009," Reddy says. For 47-year-old Sriramulu, who tasted success in his maiden electoral contest in 1995 when he contested the Ballary municipal corporation election from Ward No. 34, it is the Badami battle that would either consecrate his identity as the giant killer or become the first taste of defeat, though a high-profile one, in his political career.

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