Party panel defers decision on choice of candidate for Varanasi

The central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is stated to have approved the merger of the BSR Congress (Badavara, Shramikara, Raithara Congress), headed by B. Sriramulu, a close associate of the former Minister and jailed mining baron G. Janardhan Reddy, bringing the curtain down on the uncertainty over Mr. Sriramulu’s political future.

The move of the BJP is being considered as a shot in the arm for the party as it would help the BJP achieve gains in at least five constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Sriramulu will be the party candidate from Bellary parliamentary constituency, reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

Realising that it could emerge as a force to reckon with again in the State only with the support of the BSR Congress and the Karnataka Janata Party, and also retain its seats, the State BJP leaders, with the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa already back in the party, were making relentless efforts to get the BSR Congress merged with the BJP.

However, their efforts to rope in Mr. Sriramulu had got stalled when BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who was revered as a god mother by the Reddy brothers and Mr. Sriramulu, distanced herself in view of their indictment in the illegal mining scam, and also strongly opposed the proposed merger of BSR Congress with the BJP.

Mr. Sriramulu, who floated the BSR Congress after quitting the BJP miffed over the latter keeping itself away from him and the Reddy brothers, performed well in his maiden attempt in the Assembly elections. His party won four seats, of which two are in Bellary, out of the total 176 seats it contested in 2013. The BSR Congress polled 8.44 lakh votes (2.69 per cent of the total electorate).

From the voting trend, it was evident that its base lay more in the northern Karnataka districts of Bellary, Raichur, Koppal, Bidar, Gulbarga and in Chitradurga, where the backward classes and the Valmiki community dominate the numbers.

Poll statistics reveal that the BJP needs the BSR Congress and the Karnataka Janata Party on its side to make a dent in the Congress’ vote share. As was seen, the BJP, after the split, suffered badly both in terms of vote share and seats in the 2013 Assembly elections compared to the one in 2008, while its splinter groups, the KJP and the BSR Congress, together polled 0.39 crore votes. The votes secured by the BJP and its splinter groups put together was 1.11 crore, a little less than that polled by the Congress (1.14 crore) in the Assembly elections.

Now, under the changed political circumstances, the Congress would be forced to come out with new political strategies and strive to wrest the Bellary parliamentary seat, which it lost by a narrow margin of 2,200 votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

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