New Delhi, March 13: The BJP brass today snubbed Sushma Swaraj and decided to field former rebel B.S. Sriramulu from Bellary in Karnataka once he formally rejoins the party tomorrow.
Sriramulu had left the BJP before the last state elections because his mentors, the Reddy brothers of Bellary, had allegedly been mistreated. He had then floated his own outfit, the BSR Congress.
Unlike another former rebel, erstwhile chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who recently merged his short-lived Karnataka Janata Paksha with the BJP, Sriramulu has not been allowed a similar arrangement.
He has been told to return as a primary member and contest from Bellary on a BJP symbol.
Sushma was set against Sriramulu’s return though she had been extremely close to the Reddys, and had even proclaimed her opposition on Twitter. Sushma’s point was that the re-entry of Sriramulu would not help the BJP’s “anti-corruption” campaign against the UPA.
But the rest of the party went along with the Karnataka unit’s assessment, which was that Sriramulu would bring tribal as well as backward votes in six Lok Sabha seats.
Sushma was apparently intransigent till the last. Shortly before the BJP parliamentary board met this morning to decide on Sriramulu, she reportedly reaffirmed that she would not let him in as long as she was around.
BJP president Rajnath Singh, however, presented the electoral arguments in favour of Sriramulu to Sushma’s onetime mentor L.K. Advani, who finally went along with the others.
In a second snub to Sushma, the BJP brass have more or less decided that all the eight names recommended by Yeddyurappa would be accepted. Two of them figured in today’s list, among them Shobha Karandlaje, a political associate of Yeddyurappa.
The nominations for Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and the remaining seats in Bengal will be discussed on March 15.
These states are crucial not just in terms of numbers but also because of their political importance to the BJP, particularly Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi.
Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are engaged in a friendly battle to claim the candidature of Narendra Modi as he contests his first parliamentary election.
Varanasi, in eastern Uttar Pradesh, is being considered for him because it nestles at the heart of the state’s most politically volatile region.
Party sources claimed that most leaders were looking at Varanasi seriously because if Modi contested from there, his presence would “influence” as many as 14 seats in the eastern belt as well as a few in neighbouring Bihar.
However, sitting Varanasi MP Murli Manohar Joshi has revealed his unhappiness at the prospect of losing Varanasi.
Although the Sangh has brought Joshi around, he has repeatedly indicated he would go out “kicking and screaming” — a scenario that is not to Modi’s liking, according to sources.
The Gujarat BJP today announced that Modi “will definitely” contest the general election from one seat in Gujarat and perhaps another in Uttar Pradesh.
Gujarat BJP general secretary listed Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara and Surat as the probable seats lined up for Modi.