'I am unaffected by mining scam': Ballari BJP candidate Somashekara Reddy to TNM

The News Minute caught up with BJP candidate Somashekara Reddy in Ballari City for an interview ahead of the upcoming elections.
'I am unaffected by mining scam': Ballari BJP candidate Somashekara Reddy to TNM
'I am unaffected by mining scam': Ballari BJP candidate Somashekara Reddy to TNM
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Inside the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) office in Ballari City, there is an unusual frenzy on Thursday morning. 

The party’s candidate from Ballari City – Gali Somashekara Reddy – is seated on a sofa huddled in a discussion with fellow party members. “We need jumbo flags for tomorrow and someone has to go put up the cutouts of Shah ji,” Somashekara says pointing to two workers. 

BJP workers in Ballari City are in the middle of final preparations for a massive rally on Friday in which party president Amit Shah will be speaking. 

The rally assumes significance as it comes less than a month after Shah publicly claimed that the party had nothing to do with Gali Janardhana Reddy, brother of Somashekara, at a meeting in Mysuru. 

The Reddy brothers - Somashekara, Janardhana and Karunakara –  were elected from Ballari for the BJP in 2008, when the BJP won and came to power in Karnataka. Back then, the trio wielded significant influence in the state and were given ministerial and board chairman postings. 

The eldest, Karunakara Reddy became Revenue Minister, Janardhana Reddy became Tourism Minister and the youngest, Somashekara Reddy became chairman of the Karnataka Milk Federation. 

However, the political fortunes of the influential Reddy brothers took a hit when the Karnataka Lokayukta in 2011 named Janardhana Reddy as the prime accused in the Ballari Mining Scam. 

While Somashekara Reddy was not directly named in the report, he was forced to go into political oblivion along with his brothers, both of whom were accused in the report.

The Reddy family is firmly back with the BJP with Somashekara and Karunakara given tickets to contest from Ballari City and Harapanahalli constituencies respectively.

The News Minute caught up with BJP candidate Somashekara Reddy in Ballari City for an interview ahead of the upcoming elections. 

1. What do you think about Amit Shah’s statements about Janardhana Reddy and how is your relationship with him?

My relationship with my family members is very good. We are brothers and you can’t change that at the end of the day. Janardhana Reddy is helping as a friend in campaigning for Sriramulu in Molakalmuru. 

2. What is your view on the decision to move Sriramulu, who is an MP from Ballari, to Molakalmuru? Were you surprised when you were announced as the candidate from Ballari City?

No, not really. Sriramulu is a major leader of the Valmiki Naik community and he will win whether he contests from Molakalmuru or any of the 15 constituencies around it. It is the reason he has been named as the candidate in Badami against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Also, Ballari City is a general constituency and not an ST constituency and hence, I will be contesting from here.

3. When did you know that you will be the BJP candidate from Ballari City?

I started door-to-door campaigning around one month ago. That was when I was told I will the candidate. When BS Yeddyurappa was here for the Parivartana Yatra, he had said that I will be the candidate. 

When the election dates were announced, we began campaigning and we have received an enthusiastic response so far. I have belief that people here still trust me.  I have been working in politics here since 2001 when I was the Municipal Vice Chairman. I then went on to become the Chairman and then the Mayor. 

People here know my work ethic and still believe that if they call, I will come to their homes and resolve their issues.

4. Do you think your family’s involvement in the 2011 Ballari Mining case will hurt your chances?

I am not involved in the mining case, it doesn’t affect me. It is pertaining to my family members. I was not named as a Director of the Obulapuram Mining Company and there is no charge-sheet against me.  It is an attempt by my opponents to malign me and we are confident that it will not affect the elections. Have you asked people about it? People will not believe it. Even the Congress candidate Anil H Lad was arrested by CBI in 2015 in relation to the mining scam case. 

5. Why did you leave the party and join the BSR Congress?

I decided to go with Sriramulu and join the BSR Congress. I did not contest the elections in 2013 for BSR Congress. Murali Krishna contested  in 2013 from Ballari City and got close to 34,000 votes. When Sriramulu returned to the BJP before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, I came back with him and fully expected to get a ticket to contest from Ballari City this time around. 

6. Residents in Ballari City have raised concerns about availability of drinking water in their homes. Many residents say water is being released once in two weeks.

When I was MLA, there was no problem of water shortage. It is true that rainfall has decreased in the last few years and Ballari is a drought-prone area but he (Congress MLA Anil Lad) has not found a way to ensure drinking water to people. We had brought in a 114 crore project connecting a pipeline between the LLC canal and the HLC canal. 

If we come to power, we will open the pipeline and hope to release water at least twice a week instead of the long gap of 15-20 days between release of water that we currently have today.

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