RE­TURN OF THE BAL­LARI BROTH­ERS

Scams be damned, BJP falls back on the min­ing barons to win back state

India Today - - STATES - By Aravind Gowda

CAST ASIDE by the BJP five years ago af­ter their names sur­faced in In­dia’s big­gest min­ing scam, the Reddy broth­ers of Bal­lari are back in the thick of things in Kar­nataka. They seem to be call­ing the shots for the saf­fron party in the assem­bly polls, even field­ing con­fi­dant B. Sri­ra­mulu against Chief Min­is­ter Sid­dara­ma­iah in the Badami seat in Ba­galkot dis­trict af­ter the party failed to find a chal­lenger.

It’s clearly been dif­fi­cult for the BJP to part com­pany with the pow­er­ful min­ing mag­nates who bankrolled the party’s first vic­tory in Kar­nataka

in 2008. Be­sides nom­i­nat­ing broth­ers G. Karunakara Reddy and G. So­mashekhara Reddy, the party has given the Reddy clan five more assem­bly tick­ets in their iron ore-rich bas­tions of Bal­lari and Chi­tradurga. The saf­fron lead­er­ship, how­ever, in­sists it has no ties with G. Ja­nard­hana Reddy, the mid­dle sib­ling who spent three years (2011-2015) in jail on charges of il­le­gal min­ing.

Be that as it may, he’s out there cam­paign­ing and even shar­ing the stage with BJP can­di­dates. Na­tional lead­ers in­clud­ing BJP chief Amit Shah keep their dis­tance but for­mer CM B.S. Yed­dyu­rappa, who has had a rocky re­la­tion­ship with the Red­dys, is more forth­right. “I have for­given him (Ja­nard­hana Reddy) and many oth­ers who have trou­bled me in the past. His sup­port will be help­ful to us,” the BJP’s CM can­di­date said in Ben­galuru on April 26. In­deed, he shared the dais with Reddy at an April 21 poll rally in Chi­tradurga dis­trict.

Chuffed with the re­cep­tion he is get­ting from the BJP, Ja­nard­hana asks, “Who says that I quit? I have al­ways been with the party. It’s the Congress who tried to dis­credit me.” Ja­nard­hana, who is out on bail, is barred from en­ter­ing his home dis­trict of Bal­lari. So he’s camp­ing in neigh­bour­ing Chi­tradurga where Sri­ra­mulu is con­test­ing Mo­lakalmuru (in ad­di­tion to Badami).

Ja­nard­hana Reddy’s ac­tive in­volve­ment seems to have up­set the BJP na­tional lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially his ap­pear­ance on the cam­paign trail even af­ter Shah de­nied any links with the man. In­sid­ers say this is what prompted an em­bar­rassed Shah to can­cel his elec­tion meet­ings in Bal­lari dis­trict.

But ob­vi­ously, the BJP’s bid to dis­tance it­self from Ja­nard­hana is only a public pos­ture. “The party is

des­per­ate to win. This is ev­i­dent in how they are gath­er­ing all forces, in­clud­ing the Red­dys. But they prob­a­bly didn’t an­tic­i­pate Ja­nard­hana Reddy’s ac­tive in­volve­ment,” says po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst A. Veer­appa in Ben­galuru. He also ques­tions the BJP’s ve­he­ment de­nial of any as­so­ci­a­tion with the Reddy broth­ers: “Why then did the party give the clan seven tick­ets?” he asks.

So­mashekhara Reddy, ac­cused of try­ing to se­cure bail for Ja­nard­hana with bribes in 2012, is a can­di­date from Bal­lari City this time. El­der brother Karunakara Reddy, who was de­feated in 2013, is con­test­ing again from Hara­pana­halli. And a nephew of the Red­dys, Lallesh Reddy, is the BJP can­di­date in Ben­galuru’s BTM Lay­out. Sri­ra­mulu and three other Reddy aides are the other BJP nominees.

It’s all con­ve­nient fod­der for the Congress, which is look­ing for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive in­nings in Kar­nataka. “PM Modi talks about fight­ing cor­rup­tion. So why did the BJP is­sue tick­ets to the Red­dys? They (the BJP) owe an ex­pla­na­tion to the peo­ple,” Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi de­manded while cam­paign­ing in Bhatkal on April 26.

Ja­nard­hana Reddy is, in fact, be­com­ing more than just an em­bar­rass­ment for the BJP. His tirade against Sid­dara­ma­iah, de­scrib­ing the CM as a “Ra­vana”, led to com­plaints to the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. On April 29, he was briefly banished from Chi­tradurga, ahead of PM Modi’s sched­uled elec­tion ral­lies in the state.

Kar­nataka BJP lead­ers, how­ever, say that with Yed­dyu­rappa avidly back­ing him, Ja­nard­hana Reddy is un­likely to stay away from the cam­paign too long. “Ev­ery­one knows what the Reddy broth­ers bring to the ta­ble,” says a for­mer BJP min­is­ter and friend of Yed­dyu­rappa.

SEVEN MEM­BERS OF THE REDDY CLAN ARE FIGHT­ING THE ASSEM­BLY POLLS ON BJP TICK­ETS

BACK IN BUSI­NESS (From left) Sri­ra­mulu with Mad­hya Pradesh CM Shivraj Chouhan, Yed­dyu­rappa and Ja­nard­hana Reddy at a BJP roadshow in Chi­tradurga

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