While there is much buzz about Somashekara Reddy’s candidature, residents also want the leaders to focus on the areas' water woes.

Talk of the town The return of the Reddys dominates conversation in Ballari
Karnataka Elections Politics Friday, April 27, 2018 - 15:18

On Thursday, there is more bustle than usual in Ballari’s Flower Street. Congress leader and current MLA of Ballari, Anil H Lad, was making a pit-stop on the busy street as part of his campaign for votes.

Anil had kicked-off his campaign after the Bharatiya Janata Party confirmed that the brother of tainted mining baron, Janardhana Reddy, Gali Somashekara Reddy, would contest for the party from the constituency.

This meant that the polls on May 12 will see a repeat of the 2008 contest between Anil and Somashekara, in which the latter emerged victorious by a slender margin of 1,022 votes.

He was elected alongside his brothers Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy, who both went on to become ministers in the BS Yeddyurappa cabinet.

However, after Janardhana Reddy was named as the prime accused in the Ballari Mining Scam by Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, the three brothers slipped into political oblivion.

Anil succeeded Somashekara as the MLA of Ballari City in 2013.

But having brought the Reddy family back into the party fold, the BJP is once again looking to make Ballari a party stronghold in the upcoming elections.

Somashekara is joined by Karunakara Reddy, who was named as BJP’s candidate from Harapanahalli.

Janardhana Reddy, the only one not to get a ticket from the BJP, is campaigning along with his close associate B Sriramulu, who is the BJP's candidate from Molakalmuru in Chitradurga and Badami in Bagalkot. He is banned from entering Ballari, the heart of his mining empire.

However, the Reddy family’s tainted history does not appear to have affected the public perception of BJP’s Ballari candidate, Somashekara Reddy. “Only Janardhana Reddy was named in the scam and not Somashekara Reddy,” claims Arun, who sells jasmines on Flower Street.

Many residents of Ballari echoed Ravi’s words and view the Reddy family with tinted glasses. “We want better development. At least with the Reddys we know that the money meant for developmental work will be used only for developmental work. We don’t care about their personal interests,” says Raghunath Reddy, who manages a shop on the same street.

Based on this perception, the party has given tickets to two members of the Reddy family and several associates of theirs, including Sriramulu (who will contest from Molakalmuru and Badami), Sanna Fakirappa (Ballari Rural) and Lalesh Reddy (BTM Layout).

Sriramulu is known to be close to the Reddy family. Sriramulu, an influential leader of the Valmiki Nayakas community, is held in high regard by the party and was picked to contest against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in the Badami constituency.

“The decision to welcome the Reddys back was taken considering the winnability of the candidates. After weighing its options, the party thought that in a tight election like this one, it is better off campaigning with the Reddys,” said a party source in Ballari.

Party President Amit Shah publicly stated in a public meeting on March 31 in Mysuru that the party had nothing to do with Janardhana Reddy. However, since those statements were made, the BJP has all but rolled out a red carpet for the Reddys’ re-induction into politics. Janardhana Reddy has been openly campaigning for Sriramulu and was also seen sharing the dais with BS Yeddyurappa, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate on April 21.

Somashekara himself remained bullish when asked whether his family’s history would affect his campaign. “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 chargesheet against me. It is an attempt by my opponents to malign me and we are confident that it will not affect us in the elections. Have you asked people about it? People will not believe it,” he said, speaking to TNM.

All this, in spite of Congress’ efforts to draw attention to the Reddy family’s history. Senior leaders including Siddaramaiah took to Twitter to warn that the family was back to ‘loot Karnataka again’.

 

 

The Congress candidate from Ballari – Anil Lad – has often made Janardhana the central figure in his campaign speeches. “Ballari has been peaceful for the past five years as they have not had to fear the Reddy family. The Supreme Court has told Janardhana Reddy to stay out of Ballari for his involvement in the mining scam. Somashekara Reddy has been charged with offering cash to a High Court judge in return for granting bail to Janardhana Reddy,” he said in a speech addressed to jewelers in Sabapathy Street on Thursday.

The debate over the inclusion of the Reddys in this polls has dominated conversations among residents of Ballari, but only a few openly said that the family’s history would affect how they voted.

And lost in all this controversy surrounding the candidate list is the resident’s desperate demand for water.

“We are receiving water only once in 10-15 days. It has made daily life difficult. The candidates should be speaking about this more than what one family has done in the past,” says Ravi, who manages a provision store on Kappugal Road in Ballari.

Both candidates have indeed taken note of the constituency’s severe drinking water shortage. Anil Lad said that the Congress has built 3,000 borewells to help fill tanks in the city, while Somashekara referenced a Rs 114-crore plan to open a pipeline connecting the LLC canal and HLC canal (high level canal, low level canal) of the Tungabhadra basin.

But just speaking of this is not enough say residents. They hope that the issue, along with other problems like incomplete roads and the availability of electricity, will also figure in the conversation in the elections, which has so far been dominated only by talk of the returning Reddy.

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