The BJP has been caught completely off guard by the backlash within the party to its strategy of fielding Nayaka community leader B Sriramulu from the ST reserved constituency of Molakalmuru in Chitradurga district.
A week after announcing the first list, the party is nowhere close to containing the rebellion in the constituency by followers of outgoing BJP MLA S Thippeswamy.
The protests turned ugly on Friday as supporters of Thippeswamy hurled stones and chappals at the car in which Sriramulu was travelling. Sriramulu was injured in the incident.
These protests have put the BJP in an embarrassing spot and come at a time when party president Amit Shah is touring the state. The party is now staring at five rebels, at least, contesting against its candidates.
The BJP has so far announced candidates for 72 of the 224 Assembly seats in its first list. However, the party did not expect that Thippeswamy, once a close-aide of Sriramulu, would react so adversely. He had won the 2013 Assembly polls on a BSR Congress ticket, a party founded by Sriramulu, before it merged with the BJP.
Thippeswamy has made it clear that he will contest as a rebel against Sriramulu. He may even join the Congress. On its part, the state BJP and the central leadership have remained silent on the entire issue. According to BJP functionaries, the party will remain firm on its strategy and is confident that it will help win maximum number of ST reserved constituencies in the state.
Sriramulu had contested from Bellary Rural Assembly constituency. But this time, the party chose to shift him to Molakalmuru as the constituency abuts about six other ST reserved segments in Chitradurga and Ballari districts.
In another part of the state, at Bailahongal in Belagavi district, the tussle is between two Lingayat BJP leaders – Vishwanath Patil and Jagadish Metgud. The general opinion among the party cadre is that Metgud, a two-term MLA and a party loyalist, should have been preferred over Patil, who won the 2013 Assembly elections on a KJP ticket.
In Vijayapura City, party sources said it was a conscious decision to give the ticket to four-time MP and former Union minister Basangouda Patil Yatnal despite former MLA Appu Pattanashetti turning a rebel. An internal survey revealed that Yatnal stood a better chance of taking on sitting MLA Makbul S Bagawan of the Congress (probable candidate), in this communally-sensitive constituency.
Former MLA Seema Masuthi has rebelled in Dharwad. Here, the party gave the ticket to Amruth Desai as the survey revealed he was the best choice to take on Minister for Mines and Geology Vinay Kulkarni.
Desai, who contested unsuccessfully against Kulkarni in the 2013 polls on a JD(S) ticket, has since joined the BJP. He had taken Kulkarni head-on in BJP leader Yogish Goudars murder case, in which Kulkarni is said to be involved.
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