- Sriramulu had claimed he could be deputy chief minister if BJP wins
- Would be discussed by the party with an "open mind": Amit Shah
- Sriramulu is closest aide of Janardhana Reddy, one of 3 Reddy brothers
This is something, Mr Shah told reporters in Bengaluru, that would be discussed by the party with an "open mind" after election results are declared. But Amit Shah insisted that the party's doors were nevertheless shut for Janardhana Reddy for now.
Amit Shah's cautious response comes against the backdrop of a push to give a place of prominence to B Sriramulu if the BJP comes to power. In a recent interview, the BJP parliamentarian, said he could become BS Yeddyurappa's deputy if the BJP makes the cut.
Mr Shah's reluctance to talk about the party's plans for Sriramulu before the results are declared came just minutes after he had predicted more than 130 seats for the BJP. Later, he also backed BS Yeddyurappa who had declared he would take over as Chief Minister on 17 or 18 May.
Sriramulu is the closest aide of Gali Janardhana Reddy, one of the three Reddy brothers credited with helping the BJP win its first-ever state in south India back in 2008 by cobbling together the required numbers when the BJP fell just short of a majority.
In this election, Sriramulu is the only BJP candidate to be fielded from two seats: south Karnataka's Molakalmuru as well as Badami, Siddaramaiah's "Plan B" seat in the north.
The Congress has cited close links between Sriramulu and other candidates associated with Janardhana Reddy to punch holes in the BJP claim that it would provide a clean government.
Mr Shah had earlier attempted to distance the BJP from the third brother, Janardhana Reddy, who was released from prison in 2015 on the condition that he does not enter Ballari. Mr Shah had disowned Janardhana Reddy, claiming that the party did not have anything to do with him.
But there were red faces in the BJP after NDTV reported that Janardhana Reddy was campaigning for his favourites including Mr Sriramulu. BS Yeddyurappa, the BJP's presumptive chief minister later acknowledged that Janardhana Reddy was "only helping out"
Just hours before campaigning for the May 12 election was to end, Mr Shah was asked again which one of the two statements was accurate. "What I said is final. BJP has nothing to do with Janardhana Reddy," he told a media briefing.
But Janardhana Reddy, who has set up base at the edge of Ballari, had last week also approached the Supreme Court for permission to enter Ballari to campaign from his brother Somashekhara Reddy and cast his vote in the election. The court rejected the request.
The clout of the Reddy brothers - the Congress refers to them as the mining mafia -- has diminished considerably since 2011 over investigations that peaked in 2011 when the state's top anti-corruption officer at the time, Santosh Hegde, published a report that said the brothers were running a "Republic of Ballari". This election, however, marks their return to political prominence.
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