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New parties give sleepless nights to Cong, BJP

New parties give sleepless nights to Cong, BJP
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BSR Congress is an unknown entity in Indian politics and while in the records of the Election Commission it is a registered party, it is not recognised by the masses. Yet senior leaders of both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in New Delhi are asking what impact this small outfit and two bigger regional parties will make in Karnataka assembly elections as polling takes place on 5 May. Results, which come out on 8 May, will be crucial for both national parties, which are the main players in Karnataka.

BSR stands for Badava Shramkia Raitha (Poor Working Farmer) and the party has been floated by former BJP minister Sreeramulu, who is close to the Bellary mining baron Janardhan Reddy, now languishing in a Hyderabad prison. Sreeramulu, who belongs to the Nayak community, has been active in four districts – Bellary, Raichur, Koppal and Gadag in the central eastern part of the state and the party’s influence is said to be limited to only 10 per cent of the total of 224 constituencies in the state. Yet when Sreeramulu and Janardhan Reddy were the leading lights of the BJP in the 2008 Assembly elections, they had shown their massive money power to get big results for the party in these districts. In the Lok Sabha elections held in 2009, they helped the BJP win the constituencies of this region, even though  Sreeramulu’s sister J Shantha scraped through with a margin of 2000 votes.

Reddy and Sreeramulu ruled Bellary with an iron hand during the three- year rule of BS Yeddyurappa, but the mining scandal took its toll. Sreeramulu resigned from the Assembly, won a by-election and floated his own outfit. He has gone on padayatras in the region, and hopes that his party will do well in the dozen constituencies reserved for scheduled tribes in the region. As Janardhan Reddy is in jail and there is a ban on mining, the critical question is on how much funds Sreeramulu will have. Last time the mining camp was accused by the Opposition of ‘red earth, red note’ gimmickry, meaning that 1000 rupee notes which are red in colour were freely distributed to get votes.

The stakes are high for the Congress, the BJP, as well as regional stalwarts like HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa. The father-son duo, strong in  southern Karnataka, controls the Janata Dal (Secular) within their family and this is the fourth Assembly Election for the party. On the other hand Yedyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) – formed a few months ago – tests the electoral waters for the first time. Both of them are relying on two dominant castes in the state - Gowdas have their influence mainly among Vokkaligas, while Yedyurappa takes credit for swinging the Lingayat vote in favour of the BJP in 2008.

Both the KJP and the BSR Congress are breakaway groups of the BJP, and thus have hobbled the ruling party in specific pockets. (With inputs from agencies)
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