Karnataka Transport Minister B Sriramulu is undoubtedly the most influential Scheduled Tribe (ST) leader in the BJP in Karnataka.
One push from him can mobilise ST communities to attend party rallies.
Except, Sriramulu pushed for the communities to participate not in a BJP rally but in an event held by his confidant and mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy’s party.
Ahead of the Assembly polls in Karnataka, G Janardhana Reddy has turned out to be a threat to the BJP by floating his own party.
A tweet from the official account of the Karnataka Minister for Transport B Sriramulu has gone on to hint — and create flutters in political circles — that he might switch loyalty to Janardhana Reddy’s Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha (KRPP).
“I wholeheartedly invite the people of Sindhanur for the karyakartas-joining ceremony to Janardhana Reddy’s Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha on 17 January, 2023,” said a tweet from Sriramulu’s account on Tuesday, 17 January.
This paved the way for rumours that he was likely to quit the BJP and join hands with his close friend ahead of the Assembly polls. However, after an hour, this tweet was deleted.
Though Sriramulu has clarified many times that he would not join hands with Janardhana Reddy, he has not uttered a word about this deleted tweet.
Taking a dig at the minister’s tweet, the Opposition Congress asked Sriramulu whether he was quitting the BJP.
“Isn’t this tweet related to the I-T attack on your close friends? Why was it deleted? Did you get an I-T attack threat from Delhi?” the Karnataka Congress Twitter account asked the minister.
ಜನಾರ್ಧನ ರೆಡ್ಡಿಯವರ ಪಕ್ಷಕ್ಕೆ ಕಾರ್ಯಕರ್ತರನ್ನು ಆಹ್ವಾನಿಸುವ ಟ್ವೀಟ್ ಮಾಡಿ ಡಿಲೀಟ್ ಮಾಡಿದ @sriramulubjp ಅವರೇ,
ತಮ್ಮ ಆಪ್ತರ ಮೇಲಿನ ಐಟಿ ದಾಳಿಗೂ, ಈ ಟ್ವೀಟ್ಗೂ ಸಂಬಂಧವಿರುವಂತಿದೆ ಅಲ್ಲವೇ?
ಡಿಲೀಟ್ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದೇಕೆ? ದೆಹಲಿಯಿಂದ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಮೇಲೂ ಐಟಿ ದಾಳಿ ಮಾಡುವ ಬೆದರಿಕೆ ಬಂತೇ?
— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) January 17, 2023
The Income Tax department on 15 January conducted a raid on industrialist Kailash Vyas, who is said to be a business partner and associate of Sriramulu, at multiple places in Bengaluru, Vijayanagara, Chennai, Ballari, and Koppal.
Denying any association with Vyas, Sriramulu had told reporters: “I neither own any industries nor have a partnership with anyone. I-T raids are common. I am not worried about it.”
Sriramulu has strong support in Gadag, Bagalkot
Though Sriramulu, who is an influential Valmiki community leader, hails from Ballari district, he also has a strong following in Gadag and Bagalkot districts of North Karnataka. The two districts have a considerable population of the Valmiki and Kuruba communities.
Political commentators believe that Sriramulu switching loyalty to Reddy’s party, the KRPP, might be a big blow to the BJP not only in Ballari but also in Koppal, Gadag, and Bagalkot.
Political commentator Rajendra Patil told South First: “Sriramulu gained popularity in the Gadag region when he was minister in-charge of this district between 2008 and 2013. He carried out many development works, changing the face of the district. He also held mass marriages there for about three years, where people from the surrounding districts also benefited. He used to take all the local leaders into confidence over the initiatives. This brought him all the fame in the region.”
“If Sriramulu announces his affiliation with Reddy’s new regional party, then it will be an unbearable loss for the saffron party. Ramulu can make a huge impact in Gadag, Koppal, and Bagalkot districts. He has high political aspirations. The BJP will make all the efforts to keep him in the party by offering him top posts in the government,” opined Patil.
Amidst talk of him joining the KRPP, Sriramulu has said on multiple platforms that he will not join Reddy’s party and will continue to be with the BJP.
“The regional parties will not make any impact in the Assembly polls. The BJP will comfortably win 150 seats and come to power in the state,” Sriramulu told reporters recently.
Reddy’s brothers likely to join KRPP?
With Assembly polls nearing, political activities have intensified across the state. There is strong talk that BJP MLAs G Somashekara Reddy and G Karunakar Reddy might switch loyalty to their brother’s new party, the KRPP, just before the Assembly polls, claimed sources.
However, both the BJP leaders have clarified that they would remain with the national party. Even Janardhana Reddy has said that he would neither force his friend Sriramulu nor his two brothers to join his party.
KRPP to contest in 50 Assembly segments
Janardhana Reddy floated the KRPP nearly a month ago. But he is yet to launch it officially.
The party plans to contest in about 50 Assembly segments in Kalyana Karnataka, Central Karnataka, and parts of North Karnataka.
A close aide of Reddy told South First: “The party is getting overwhelming response as over 70 applications have been received for 50 Assembly segments. We are verifying the backgrounds of the candidates and the list will be finalised in a month.”
“The party is making efforts to rope in a few top leaders from the BJP, Congress and JD(S). Janardhana Reddy is already in talks with them. The identities of the leaders who will be joining the KRPP will be revealed only after the polls are announced,” he added.
On Sriramulu and the Reddy brothers joining the KRPP, he said: “We will not disclose the names of the people who will be joining the party because it might hamper their current political status. The details will be provided only when the polls are declared,” he reiterated.
CBI & confiscation of Reddy’s assets
Meanwhile, the CBI investigation into allegations of amassing assets illegally in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana continues to haunt Janardhana Reddy.
The CBI had recently approached the Karnataka High Court seeking directions to the government to confiscate his assets, accusing him of illegally accumulating the properties.
The CBI had sought the Karnataka government’s consent to seize Reddy’s assets in August 2022. But the BJP government led by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had not shown interest in granting permission.
On the CBI’s appeal, the Karnataka High Court slammed the Bommai government for not giving consent to confiscate Reddy’s assets. It also gave two days to the government to provide information on the delay in granting permission to attach the assets of Reddy.
Responding to this, Reddy had told reporters: “I am not afraid of seizure of my property. Property worth ₹1,200 crore was confiscated during my arrest in 2011 and its value has increased by over three-fold. I will not weep any more as it ended 12 years ago.”
“There are allegations against me in the court, but I will come out clean. I am back in politics. My aim is to build my party as elections are just three months away,” said Reddy.