Though BJP national president Mr Amit Shah had categorically stated ahead of the Assembly polls that the party had nothing to do with mining scam tainted former BJP minister Gali Janardhan Reddy, the party had projected Reddy's close confidante and Valmiki community leader Mr B. Sriramulu as the tallest leader next to its Chief Ministerial candidate Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa. He was even dubbed as the Deputy CM in waiting with Mr Shah saying after the election results that the party would discuss the issue with an "open mind."
Apart from being projected as the Dy CM candidate, BJP state vice president Mr Sriramulu hogged the limelight along with Mr Yeddyurappa and Mr Siddaramaiah of the Congress during the assembly elections and even after the results. Of the total 18 BJP Lok Sabha members from Karnataka, he and Mr Yeddyurappa were the only MPs who were allowed to contest the Assembly elections. Mr Sriramulu is an iconic leader of the Valmiki-Nayaka community spread across the state with an estimated population of about 40 lakhs. He hit the headlines choosing Molakalmur (ST) assembly constituency in neighbouring Chitradurga district to contest the polls skipping his home-bastion, Ballari. He won comfortably from Molakalmur by a margin of more than 25,000 votes but lost to former CM Siddaramaiah in Badami by a thin margin of 1600 votes. Later, when the poll threw up a hung assembly with BJP emerging as the single largest party winning 104 seats, Mr Sriramulu along with his mentor Mr Janardhan Reddy again shot to the limelight for their alleged attempts to lure Congress legislators and muster support for the BJP's CM nominee Mr Yeddyurappa during the trust vote. They however failed. Here are excerpts of an interview with the Ballari MP:
You were projected as Deputy CM candidate by the BJP. But, your dream could not come true
I am not after power. But Ballari district would have easily got the Deputy CM post after late M.P. Prakash who was the Deputy CM in the JD(S)-BJP coalition government. I am confident that there are good days ahead and hopefully, I will reach that position.
Why did the BJP fail to fare well in your home district, Ballari despite your leadership?
It is true that we lost in Hadagali, Sandur, Kampli, Hosapete, Hagaribommanahalli and Ballari Rural due to our failure in unifying the party ranks during the election campaign. If the BJP had won most of the seats in Ballari district (they won only three out of the total nine), the party would have not fallen short of numbers to form the government. The party lost badly in Ballari district due to overconfidence of some candidates and mistakes committed by partymen. Similarly, the party should have given tickets to winnable candidates in Hagaribommanahalli and Hadagali.
Despite falling short by eight seats in reaching the half way mark in the assembly, you had tried till the last minute to form the BJP government by luring Congress legislators. Comment.
I dismiss Congress leaders' allegations that I made efforts to lure Congress MLAs to the BJP. In fact, people have voted BJP to power and have rejected both JD(S) and Congress as they won less seats against their tally in the previous 2013 election. Congress and JD(S) leaders have joined together fearing that they would go behind bars in case the BJP assumes power.
What do you have to say about the audio clips released by Congress leaders which contain your phone conversation with Congress MLAs?
The audio clips are fabricated and concocted.
Do you see any advantage coming the BJP's way from the 'dissidence' expected to surface once the JD(S)-Congress coalition forms the cabinet?
At this moment I can say that BJP will not do anything to topple the government as claimed by the Congress. We will watch them round- the-clock and expose their corrupt rule before the people, we will give sleepless nights to the JD(S)-Congress government.
But the Congress is treading a cautious path with regional parties including JD(S) in view of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections......
The Congress move to forge an alliance with regional parties for enjoying power is an opportunistic move and the first step towards its collapse. Neither the Congress nor the regional parties can be comfortable in the coalition as their interests are contradictory. Some of the leaders of regional parties such as Mamata Banerjee of Trinamul Congress have indicated that the regional parties would form a Third Front keeping both the Congress and the BJP outside.
Don't you think that the Third Front will come to the rescue of the JD(S) and help it sustain this coalition government?
The Third Front comes into existence only in the election season just as mushrooms grow during the rainy season, and it disappears once the elections are over. The very idea of forming the Third Front keeping the BJP and the Congress out is an opportunistic move. The regional parties come together opposing both the national parties for their own electoral gain. It is a power-sharing exercise that has nothing to do with development. These parties can never remain united as there is no coordination and cooperation among themselves.
But the swearing-in ceremony of JD(S) leader Mr H.D. Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister took place in the presence of leaders of various regional parties along with the AICC top brass which indicates a tough fight for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
These are people who have lost face against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also their political relevance in their respective states.
CM Mr Kumaraswamy says he has nothing to learn from the BJP when it comes to protecting the interests of farmers. Is the BJP politicising the loan waiver issue?
He (Mr Kumaraswamy) had, during his pre-poll campaign, promised to waive farm loans taken by farmers from nationalised banks. Now, he is making a U-turn stating that he did not have a majority to keep his word. Irrespective of what the manifestos of the Congress and the Janata Dal(S) have in them, the Chief Minister should keep his pre-poll promise or step down from the CM's post....