Bengaluru: More than 300 people from the Reddy caste held a “secret” meeting at a farm house in the outskirts of the city on Thursday morning.
Such meetings are common closer to elections. But this particular meeting was different. The main accused in the Rs 50,000-crore mining scam, Gali Janardhana Reddy, had convened the meeting and even chaired it.
According to sources, the agenda of the meeting was — how to defeat the ruling Congress at any cost.
Out on bail, Reddy even claimed that the BJP’s central leadership sought his help in defeating certain Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Home Minister R Ramalinga Reddy. If his claims are true, it’s certainly a big development in Karnataka politics ahead of ‘do-or-die’ Assembly elections.
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. According to his aides, Reddy is planning to base himself near Chitradurga and Bellary district borders during the elections.
Unlike in the past, Janardhana Reddy won’t be visible much in public and is expected to confine himself to backroom manoeuvring and deals for the BJP.
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 declined to comment.
The state BJP general secretary and MLA CT Ravi has defended “tainted” Reddys once again working for the BJP. Speaking to media, 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.