Sriramulu's plan B: Field wife in polls

He is seeking assurance of a berth in the cabinet in return for contesting Bellary by-polls; however, if he is arrested by the CBI in illegal mining case, then he will field his wife to contest the forthcoming elections

While B Sriramulu is bargaining hard for assurances of a berth in the cabinet in return for contesting in the Bellary (Rural) by-polls with a BJP ticket, the CBI, which is probing into the illegal mining case, may upset his apple cart by arresting him. So he is now said to be toying with the idea of fielding his wife Lakshmi for the polls.

MLA B Sriramulu tendered his resignation from BJP two months back

The by-polls came about as a result of Sriramulu's resignation, which he submitted to protest the humiliation he faced in the BJP after being indicted in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining along with his mentors the Bellary Reddy brothers last month.

The upcoming polls are scheduled for November 30 and the BJP has no winning candidate, other than the former health minister. However, Sriramulu is not ready to settle for anything less than re-induction into the cabinet.

B S Yeddyurappa stepped down as chief minister following the submission of the Lokayukta report and D V Sadananda Gowda did not take Sriramulu and the Reddys into his cabinet. While Sriramulu resigned as a BJP legislator, the CBI arrested G Janardana Reddy in September and he is still in judicial custody.

Hard bargain

While the BJP is willing to concede to his demand, Sriramulu is still holding his cards close to his chest and is understood to be weighing the option of contesting as an independent candidate with the JD(S) lending him moral support.
The idea is to have more bargaining power in the post-poll scenario, as he in confident of winning with the faction- ridden Congress in no position to pose a challenge.

The JD(S) has a long-term plan of creating a multi-party coalition in the state by encouraging Sriramulu and Yeddyurappa to launch their own political parties, and Sriramulu is said to have been exploring the options carefully.
He has conducted as series of meetings with supporters, including BJP members of Bellary municipality and Bellary Zilla Panchayat. These meetings are expected to continue on Thursday. "We are looking at all the possibilities and will arrive at a decision in a day or two," said Sriramulu.

Notification of the by-polls will be issued on November 4, and November 11 is last date for filing nominations. Unwilling to waste time, the BJP sent a delegation to pacify Sriramulu late yesterday evening.

Deciding factor
"The party is interested in projecting Sriramulu as the face of the BJP in Bellary and him winning the by-polls for the party is important for us. We will hold talks with him and I hope we are successful in convincing him," said a BJP leader who left for Bellary with the delegation.

While the BJP is hopeful on taking him back into its fold, the possibility of the CBI arresting Sriramulu is the biggest worry. With the Supreme Court ordering, the CBI has just started investigating illegal mining in the state.
While Janardana's arrest was in relation to illegal mining in Andhra Pradesh, Sriramulu's arrest is not ruled out since he was one of the directors of the Reddy-owned Obalapuram Mining Company (OMC) and he is linked to many mining companies in the state.

In the eventuality of arrest, Sriramulu is said to have prepared an alternative plans of fielding his wife Lakshmi as the candidate.

"It is one of the options before us, but nothing is finalized yet. We will have a clear picture on this after we conclude the meetings scheduled with our supporters," said a leader from the Reddy camp.

Interestingly, Sadananda is also scheduled to visit Bellary on Thursday, although it is not clear whether he will meet Sriramulu. He said, "The Bellary by-polls are important for us and we will decide on the candidate after consulting the party leaders and the high command."

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