Janardhana Reddy hopes to contest K’taka 2018 polls, but does he still hold clout?

While the CBI has given Janardhana Reddy a clean chit in cases of illegal export of iron ore, will the mining baron be able to shed the taint of corruption?
Janardhana Reddy hopes to contest K’taka 2018 polls, but does he still hold clout?
Janardhana Reddy hopes to contest K’taka 2018 polls, but does he still hold clout?
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This was the district which single-handedly ensured a sweeping victory for the Congress in the 2013 Assembly Elections. Located in central Karnataka is Ballari, which has only eight assembly constituencies. But it was the explosive illegal mining scam in the region involving former ministers of the BJP government that helped swing the elections in favour of the Congress.

With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) giving mining baron and former Tourism Minister Gali Janardhana Reddy a clean chit in the cases of illegal export of iron ore last September, he is now keen on making his comeback in politics.

Speaking on the occasion of Makara Sankranti at Anekal taluk in Bengaluru Rural area on Monday, Janardhana Reddy said, “If the party gives me another chance to contest polls, this time I will ensure that the BJP comes to power.”

He also launched an attack on the ruling Congress and said that Siddaramaiah’s arrogance will ensure he does not win.

“Everyone knows that Siddaramaiah went to the Chamundi Temple in Mysuru and was arrogant enough to wear shoes inside the temple. People will not forget his arrogance. Siddaramaiah is an evil person. The Congress had alleged that I was involved in a Rs 1 lakh crore scam but till now they could not extract a single rupee from me. If Siddaramaiah or the Congress comes to beg from me, I will donate alms to them with my left hand,” Janardhana Reddy said.

The mining baron claimed that there were 42 false cases filed against him and that the UPA government could not bring him down. “They have filed false cases against me and I know that they cannot do anything to me,” he added.

Janardhana Reddy appealed to the people to give BJP a chance for the upcoming polls and vowed to destroy the Congress.

“If you give BJP a chance then I will ensure that the Congress is destroyed. If the party gives me a chance, I will ensure that the BJP will win. I will dedicate my life for the upliftment of the farmers. Form today onwards, I promise to be a part of the struggle and as a first, I will wear only a dhoti,” Janardhana Reddy added.

But will the taint of corruption stick to Janardhana Reddy?

Five years have gone by since the Congress broke into BJP’s bastion – Ballari and won five out of eight seats. For the Congress, retaining Ballari is a matter of prestige, especially since Siddaramaiah’s padayatra set the tone for the 2013 polls.

However, political party insiders say that the people of Ballari remember the old days of the steel boom (2008-09) which generated employment as opposed to the four-year drought which now has them struggling to survive.

Speaking to TNM, a BJP leader says that the feedback received from people in the district at booth level states that they struggle for employment, especially since the mines shut down. This has over the years turned the people’s views around.

“Reddy has been mired in so many controversies and scams but when his mining companies and steel plants were operational, thousands of jobs were created at local level. People were happy about the income it generated. But with the drought that hit the district in addition to the mines shutting down, there is not much to look forward to besides tourism and agriculture. Reddy is also known for his philanthropic activities. He had ensured that borewells were dug for people. He managed to give people water – something that they did not have in abundance. That kind of kindness is not easily forgotten,” the BJP leader added.

Although the BJP has officially maintained an unflappable silence on the issue of allotting a corrupt neta a ticket, party insiders say that Reddy is hoping to return to politics once more through his trusted aide B Sriramulu.

“Janardhana Reddy obviously has political clout in the region, so do his brothers Somashekhar and Karunakar Reddy. It all depends on who gets to contest from which constituency. Talks are on that Somashekar will contest from Ballari City,” the source added.

What is the Congress doing to retain Ballari?

The Congress has now managed to poach a BJP strongman and a leader of the Adivasi community – the current Kudligi MLA B Nagendra. He is all set to join the party in the presence of Rahul Gandhi on January 27 in Ballari’s Hosapete.

Speculation is rife that Hosapete’s local MLA and mining baron, Anand Singh is also going to quit BJP and possibly join the Congress or contest as an independent. This became apparent when Anand Singh’s followers boycotted the Parivarthana Yatra. The lack of party workers at the event had also angered the state party leaders.

BJP sources say that Anand Singh has been unhappy as senior party leaders have not sided with his move to appease the Muslim community by attending Tipu Jayanti celebrations in Hosapete in 2017.

But all’s not well in the Congress camp either. Congress sources say that two troublesome leaders in the district – Ballari City MLA Anil Lad and MLC KC Kondiaiah are unhappy with the treatment doled out to them by Siddaramaiah.

“Anil’s brother Santosh was made the Labour Minister and also the Ballari district-in-charge minister. This did not stand well with Anil and the party has sidelined his demands ever since. The party cannot afford to lose Anil Lad as he could be a strong contender for the upcoming elections. The party leaders are now trying to appease Anil,” the Congress source said.

Meanwhile, another local heavyweight – KC Kondiah, who is considered the mastermind in bringing the Reddy brothers down, has also been sidelined. “It is either Kondaiah or Anil Lad who will be given Balari City but the party is trying to keep both of them in the good books now,” the source added.

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