Bengaluru: After his younger brother Gali Somashekhara Reddy’s name figured in BJP’s second list, an elated Gali Janardhana Reddy declared in a meeting of his close aides that they are back in business and the second innings would be good for them. A few minutes later, he called up many important leaders in state BJP and thanked them for giving three tickets to Reddy clan, claim his close circles.
Just a month ago, there were serious doubts over Reddy’s political future and the BJP high command had maintained a total silence over offering them any role in the Karnataka Assembly elections. Two weeks later BJP national president Amit Shah declared in a press meet that BJP has nothing to do with Reddys.
It was being seen as the end of road for Reddys and a shocked Reddy clan huddled to discuss their future. Some of them even started sending feelers to Congress and JDS to remain relevant in state politics.
But their close friend and Bellary MP B Sriramulu worked behind the scenes and managed to persuade the party high command to give one more chance to them.
Sriramulu is considered a strong tribal leader in Karnataka and wields a lot of influence in three districts – Chitradurga, Bellary and Raichur, bordering Andhra Pradesh. The BJP does not want to lose seats by continuing to shun the Reddys, say party insiders.
Along with G Somashekhara Reddy, their close associate Sanna Fakkirappa has also got BJP ticket from Bellary rural. Somashekhara Reddy will be contesting from Bellary City against Congress’ sitting MLA Anil Lad, whom he had defeated by a slender margin of 1000 votes in 2008.
The ruling Congress has strongly reacted to BJP fielding Reddy clan in the Assembly elections. Congress spokespersons, including Randeep Singh Surjevala and Priyanka Chaturvedi, have attacked the BJP questioning their commitment “corruption free Karnataka”.
But the Reddy clan does not seem to be worried about such things.
After spending almost four years in Hyderabad and Bengaluru jail in connection with the Rs 50,000-crore mining scam, Gali Janardhana Reddy had almost disappeared from public life. The Supreme Court also made life tough for him by banning Reddy’s entry to hometown Bellary. Except Sriramulu, his entire clan was out of power and Reddy’s enemies had regained the last territory in the last 5-6 years.
Certainly the Reddy clan was staring at a bleak future. But the sudden developments in the last two weeks have once again brought them back to mainstream politics.
The Reddy brothers, who propelled the BJP to its first ever win in a southern state with their money and muscle power in 2008, became persona non-grata in just five years. After the then Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde indicted them in the mining scam, the CBI sent them to jail and Janardhana Reddy had to cool his heels in Hyderabad and Bengaluru prisons for almost four years.
During the 2013 Assembly elections, the once-feared Reddy was in jail and his mining “empire” was in a shambles. He was even suspended from the BJP and his close confidante B Sriramulu had floated his own party called BSR Congress which had won three seats in that election.
By 2014, the two breakaway factions of the state BJP — Yeddyurappa’s KJP and BSR Congress — returned to the parent party and helped the Lotus symbol win 17 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats from the state.
But the BJP was not ready to touch the “infamous” Reddy brothers — Janardhana and Somashekhara even with a barge pole after that.
After his release from jail, Janardhana Reddy had maintained that he was still with the BJP. But the state BJP had clarified that he was not part of it.
The first signals of a rapprochement appeared in November 2016. Reddy had arranged a Rs 500 crore-mega wedding for his daughter at Bengaluru Palace and all top BJP leaders had attended it. Even the Income Tax department did not bother to find out how Reddy had arranged Rs 500 crore just a week after demonetisation.
Bellary MP B Sri Ramulu was also named in the suspicious death of his close aide’s driver and alleged conversion of Rs 100 crore demonetised notes into new currencies. But the concerned agencies chose to ignore that, giving enough credence to theories that the BJP was cozying up to Reddys with Assembly polls in mind.
The Supreme Court has barred Janardhana Reddy from entering his hometown Bellary and gagged him from talking to the media. The Supreme Court has once again dismissed his plea requesting the apex court to allow him return to Bellary, just two weeks ago.
Janardhana Reddy has now set up a base for himself near Chitradurga and Bellary district borders during the elections. From a farm house he will be overseeing the electioneering in Bellary. One of his aides told News18 that Reddy had assured the BJP that he will bring BJP back to power in Karnataka through Bellary.
“Unlike in the past, Janardhana Reddy won’t be visible much in public and is expected to confine himself to backroom maneuvering and deals for the BJP” he said.
The BJP’s CM face and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa seems to have forgotten everything the Reddys did to him during his regime. Even though he is not meeting him in public, he is not averse to the idea of using the Reddys to win some seats in the elections, claim state BJP sources. When News18 asked him about Reddys, Yeddyurappa defended giving tickets to Reddy clan.
The state BJP general secretary and MLA CT Ravi has defended “tainted” Reddys once again working for the BJP. Speaking to News18, he said, “There are 224 Assembly seats in the state. Every seat is important. The Reddys are helping us in some seats. There is nothing wrong in it.”
Reddy brothers have a personal reason to side with the BJP because of the Siddaramaiah government’s decision to reinvestigate the iron ore export scam even after the CBI closed the case.
The Congress engineered the defection of two Reddy loyalists during party president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Bellary two weeks ago. It has also unnerved the Reddy camp. It fears that if the Congress retains power, it can spell doom for their family. In the crucial battle for Karnataka, both BJP and Reddys are fighting for their survival. It is a case of “two together”, “two alone” for the same cause.
The return of the Reddys is likely to alter Karnataka politics once again irrespective Assembly election results.