Bengaluru: BJP chief Amit Shah has cancelled his scheduled tour of Bellary district on Friday to avoid the embarrassment of sharing the dais with the infamous Reddy brothers in their fiefdom, claim party sources.
Giving a ticket to seven members from the Reddy clan, which is embroiled in an alleged Rs 50,000 crore mining scam, seems to have gone against the BJP in Karnataka, leading to a furious debate and embarrassment for several party leaders.
BJP’s state president and the party’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa has added fuel to fire with his statement that he has pardoned the Reddy brothers “in the interest of the state”.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who has made the return of the Reddys one of the main election issues, has attacked Yeddyurappa for "pardoning" the Reddys.
Very interesting! @BSYBJP has pardoned Reddy in interest of state
1 Which interest of Karnataka is served by pardoning someone who looted thousands of crores of Kannadigas’ wealth?
2 Is it upto you to pardon him?
3 Did you ask PM Modi to direct CBI to formalise the ‘pardon’? pic.twitter.com/50D759dNRr— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) April 27, 2018
Gali Janardhana Reddy, the alleged kingpin of the mining mafia, has been leading the BJP campaign in central Karnataka districts, damaging the "fighting corruption" perception the party is trying to build against the ruling Congress.
Speaking to News18, Siddaramaiah said, "The Reddy brothers are the biggest criminals in the history of Karnataka. They looted state with impunity. The BJP has once again embraced them. They have got seven nominations. Yeddyurappa's own son has not got the party ticket. One can easily understand that if the BJP comes to power, it will be the Reddys who will be ruling the state, not Yeddyurappa. It is another matter that the BJP will never come to power in Karnataka.”
Countering the CM, Yeddyurappa said, “Reddy brothers, except Janardhana Reddy, are with us. Janardhana has not asked for any ticket for Assembly elections and we are not going to give a ticket. He is going to help in Bellary and few other districts where we can get 15-20 seats easily because of Janardhana... People are happy that he is supporting us.”
BJP spokespersons, however, are struggling to defend the return of the Reddys. Senior leader Vamanacharya said Janardhana Reddy was not a star campaigner for the party and was campaigning “on his own”.
What has shocked party workers is that seven members from the Reddy clan got BJP tickets even after Amit Shah publicly disowned them a few weeks ago.
Janardhana Reddy has declared that he will campaign against Siddaramaiah in Badami where his Man Friday B Sriramulu is the BJP candidate. But local BJP leaders fear that it might backfire and are asking the high command to keep the Reddys away from Badami.
"The party has categorically told them to confine themselves only to their seats. But they are not listening. Because of them, if we win five seats and lose 15-20 seats, it will finish us,” said a BJP leader.
Former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde, whose report sent the Reddys to jail in 2011, has already expressed serious concerns over the BJP once again entertaining the Reddys.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has also launched an all-out attack on the BJP for using the Reddys to fight elections in Karnataka and is likely to use it to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi as campaigning heats up ahead of the May 12 elections.
Given the developments, PM Modi is also unlikely to campaign in the Reddy bastions, claim local BJP leaders.