While the stalemate over the re-entry of former chief minister and KJP president B S Yeddyurappa into the BJP continues, former minister B S Sriramulu seems to have a 50 per cent chance of returning to the saffron party.
Sriramulu, who quit the BJP over the arrest of former tourism minister G Janardhana Reddy in connection with the illegal mining case, has shown interest to return to the party. However, the former minister has a rider — he should be given the post of deputy leader in the Legislative Assembly.
Former deputy chief minister R Ashok is the deputy leader now. BJP leaders are not agreeing to this condition as they do not wish to antagonise the powerful Vokkaliga community.
A source told Express that leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has opposed to Sriramulu’s re-entry into the BJP as her equation with him and the Reddy brothers has taken a beating.
She has stopped visiting Bellary after Reddy was arrested by CBI following his alleged involvement in the illegal mining case.
“In fact, a few national leaders are trying to convince Sushma to reconsider her decision as the BJP wants to consolidate its position in Bellary district, which had been won by the Congress in the recent Assembly elections.
Besides, the BJP leaders are aware of the organising capacity of Sriramulu who still wields influence not only in Bellary, but also in the neighbouring districts of Koppal, Gadag and Raicur.
“He also belongs to the Valmiki community which has a sizable number of voters in north Karnataka region,” the source added.
The BJP feels that striking a deal with Sriramulu is better than bargaining with Yeddyurappa. Its leaders are reportedly trying to send feelers to convince Sriramulu not to press for the deputy leader’s post as it has already been given to Ashok.
If they are successful in this mission, BJP will not only become the principal Opposition party in the Assembly, but also make its presence felt again in Bellary district.
Though, Bellary Lok Sabha member G Shantha and Raichur Lok Sabha member Sanna Phakirappa were elected on BJP tickets, they have identified themselves with the BSR Congress. If the deal is struck, BJP is ready to give them tickets in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and try to work for their victory.
“Our aim is to bank on the pro-Modi wave and win maximum number of seats in Karnataka. We are optimistic of convincing Sriramulu to merger his party with the BJP,” the source noted. However, Sriramulu was not available for comments.
The source pointed out that there has been no progress as far as Yeddyurappa’s return is concerned. He has been putting forth fresh conditions every day which is not liked by national leaders. As of now, the stalemate continues on this issue.