New Delhi: The Reddy brothers right hand man and former Karnataka minister B Sriramulu's victory in a bypoll has not come as a surprise to both politicians and politics watchers in Karnataka. But, his huge victory margin (over 47,000 votes) has shocked the ruling BJP, which lost even the deposit in this high voltage mini-battle.
When Sriramulu quit BJP to fight election as an independent three months ago, BJP thought that it was yet another pressure tactic by the Reddy brothers. They ignored him and the Speaker took almost two months to decide on his resignation.
A week after Sriramulu's dramatic exit from the BJP, his closest friend and the head of now much tainted Reddy 'Empire' G Janardhana Reddy was sent to jail by the CBI in mining scam. It made Sriramulu nervous and the BJP happy. A section in the BJP even sensed an opportunity and tried to split the Reddy gang by wooing Sriramulu back into the party fold. BJP's efforts failed and Reddys' Hanuman decided to stand by his masters during the time of their worst crisis.
BJP was forced to take on its one time district commander just to save its face. Former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa reluctantly jumped into poll campaign and even called Reddys traitors.
BJP was hoping that Yeddyurappa's magic would help the party to put up at least a brave fight. Sadly, today's result shows that Yeddyurappa's magic has failed in Bellary.
I would not be wrong if I say that Sriramulu's victory alone can't bring the BJP government down in Karnataka. There was in no BJP in Bellary before the party outsourced party building to Reddys in 2004. With Sriramulu's exit, most of the BJP workers also followed him and the party strength returned to pre-2004 position. Rustic and sometimes naïve young tribal leader Sriramulu has been a darling of majority people in Bellary rural. His humble nature, down to earth behaviour and friendly attitude have added some positive energy to his personality and image. Over the years he has endeared himself to the masses by spending money like water.
The BJP did not even have a candidate till the last minute. Congress fielded a decent man, who came a distant second.
People are expecting Kar 'Nataka' again. The humiliating defeat might lead to internal squabbling once again. But, Reddys are not in a position to take on the might of the BJP and will have to wait for their chance in the next elections, due in April/May 2013.
The noose is tightening around the neck of Reddys in the mining scam and majority in the state BJP is trying to maintain a distance from them. Reddys have the support of less than 10 BJP MLAs and they can't topple the government. Moreover Reddys influence is limited only to some parts of Bellary and they can't hope to decide the fate of BJP in other parts of the state.
Despite serious charges of corruption, the BJP had been on a winning spree ever since it came to power in May, 2008. The loss of a seat in Bellary will certainly have a negative impact on its morale. But, it will be unwise and too early to write the epithet of BJP in Karnataka.
Sriramulu's victory is expected to bring the Gowdas and Reddys together in state politics after 5 years of bitter fight. If they can manage to win at least 50 seats together in the next polls, they can hope to control the reigns of power in Bangalore. It will be a deadly cocktail and the last thing people of Karnataka want is reunion of Gowdas and Reddys.