Business Standard

Why Bellary's Reddy miners top BJP's charts despite the 'taint' they carry

The Reddy brothers were so integral to BJP's politics in Karnataka and at the Centre that L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj weighed-in with them rather than the CM of the day, B S Yeddyurappa

Radhika Ramaseshan  |  Chennai 

Radhika Ramaseshan
Radhika Ramaseshan

Seldom has a regional clan mattered so much to the (BJP) as the of Bellary, a district in North Karnataka that became nationally infamous for the several thousand crore illegal that was unearthed between 2007 and 2013 when the ruled the state. After distancing itself from the Reddys for a brief while, the has brought them back in business in the current Karnataka polls, even if their rehabilitation has meant compromising with its so-called commitment to upholding probity.

The three —- Galli Karunakara, and -— were so integral to the BJP’s politics not only in Karnataka but at the Centre too that party seniors and weighed-in with them rather than the chief minister of the day, when it was time to apportion blame for the and the corroborative damage it brought to the government and the BJP’s image. Yeddyurappa’s name featured in the Lokayukta’s report on the scam after which the dumped him mid-way through his tenure.

Since the BJP lost Karnataka in 2013, it studiously maintained a distance from the Reddys who themselves came apart thereafter. Karunakara fell out with and to such a degree that when had invited half of Bellary to his daughter’s wedding, his older brother was not. Janardhana was earlier in the Hyderabad and Bengaluru jails after he was convicted in the Rs 50,000 crore and was proscribed by the from entering Bellary, his homestead. The court’s order holds good even today.

As recent as on March 31, BJP president Amit Shah proclaimed at a press conference in Mysuru that his party will have nothing to do with the Reddys. Apparently, Janardhana and did not take kindly to Shah’s assertion and let it be known that they were hobnobbing with the Congress, a prospect that made the BJP jittery because the Reddys’ clout extends beyond Bellary to neighbouring Davangere and Chitradurga. The Reddys were in hot waters because the Karnataka chief minister Siddharamaiah decided to open the iron ore export scam after the CBI had closed it. “It was a question of survival for them because once the family was out of power, their enemies had reclaimed the Bellary turf over the last five or six years. The Reddys badly wanted political patronage whether from us or the BJP,” a source said.

As if in reflex, the BJP gave Somashekara an assembly election ticket from Bellary City while his close associate Sanna Fakkirappa secured one from Bellary Rural after he openly consorted with the BJP sources said the response was not as “knee-jerk” as it appeared because the first sign of a rapprochement was visible in November 2016 when top party leaders attended the marriage of Janardhana’s daughter. When Somashekhara was “gifted” a ticket, Janardhana—though officially “unwanted” by the BJP—told his aides that the Reddys were back in business for a “good” second innings.

Karnataka BJP spokesperson and legal cell member Vivek Subba Reddy sought to justify the Reddys’ resurrection, contending, “Fakkirappa and Somashekara are not linked to the mining scam. The has given tickets to bad apples like (KJ) George, (NA) Haris and Anil Lad (who the CBI had arrested in 2015 for the illegal ore mining scam).” Reddy “clarified” that the BJP had not given Janardhana an official mandate. “By himself if he wishes to support someone we can’t help it,” he added. Obviously Janardhana is not waiting for a cue from the BJP because he has set up base at a farmhouse near Chitradurga to oversee Somashekhara and Fakkirappa’s electioneering.

BJP’s Davangere MP Gowdar Mallikarjunappa Siddeshwar, “What is wrong with Somashekhara and Fakkirappa? They are BJP leaders.”

However, there’s a critical missing link in the chain that binds the Reddys and the BJP together. He is B Sreeramulu, BJP MP from Bellary that in 1999 saw an epic battle between and in which Sonia was the victor.

Sreeramulu is a surrogate member of the Reddy “parivar”, although he chooses to play up his tribal and rural origins as his political strengths. Sreeramulu told BS, “I belong to a tribal community, I have no business contact because I am a farmer and not a miner. Janardhana Reddy is my friend and that’s not a drawback.”

If Yeddyurappa’s rebellion cost the BJP its Lingayat votes and a possible comeback in the 2013 Karnataka polls, Sreeramulu was no less a spoiler. Peeved by the manner in which the BJP jettisoned his Reddy friends, he floated an independent party, the Badavara Shramikara Raitara Congress Party and by conservative estimates, took away 28 percent of the votes in the Bellary district. Come 2014, Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha and Sreeramulu’s BSRCP merged with the BJP and helped swing 17 of 28 Lok Sabha seats.

Sreeramulu belongs to the Nayaka tribal community but political observers believe he commands the captive votes of other tribal groupings as well in the 15 ST reserved seats in the Bellary, Raichur, Mysuru, Chitradurga, Davangere, Tumkur and Belgaum districts that account for 52 percent of the tribal population.

Sreeramulu and Yeddyurappa’s close political associate Shobha Karandlaje are the two MPs who will contest the assembly polls. Sreeramulu is fighting from Molakalmuru (ST) seat in the Chitradurga district.

A combination of the money, muscle and political clout wielded by the Reddys and Sreeramulu’s tribal antecedents are what the BJP hopes will bring to it a bounty from north Karnataka.

First Published: Fri, April 20 2018. 17:36 IST