“BJP is the Mother of All Reddy Brothers. All Three Reddys are in the BJP.”

The scam-accused Janardhana Reddy, in order to avoid another prosecution, needs a victory of the BJP government, as much as the BJP government needs his clout for a victory.

Reddy brothers

Only weeks after BJP’s national president Amit Shah distanced his party from the 35,000 crore rupees-scam accused mining baron by saying that “BJP has no relationship with Janardhan Reddy,” who is out on bail after spending 3 years in jail, Janardhan Reddy, clad in a saffron scarf, took out a roadshow outside Bellary day before yesterday, campaigning for his close aide and “adopted brother” B. Sreeramulu, who is given by the party a high profile ticket to contest from Badami, where he will be challenging the incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

BJP has also hinted that Sreeramulu, a close confidant of the infamous and tainted Reddy brothers, might be made the deputy Chief Minister if the party wins the election in Karnataka on May 12. Janardhan Reddy had to carry out his campaign outside of Bellary as his bail terms does not allow him to enter the region, which was the heartland of his mining empire.  

Asked about Amit Shah’s denial of BJP’s association with Janardhana Reddy, “No controversy questions please. Be positive,” Reddy told told NDTV’s Sreenivasan Jain from his campaign vehicle. “I am working for the BJP”. His brother Somashekar Reddy added, “BJP is the mother of all Reddy brothers. All three Reddys are in the BJP.”

Somashekara Reddy and Karunakara Reddy are also given party tickets. The Reddy brothers were at the heart of the iron-ore mining scam that brought down Chief Minister Yeddyurappa of the first BJP government in South India in 2011, after he was indicted by the Lokayukta for being complicit in the Reddy brothers’ illegal mining. Months later, he was arrested .

Janardhan Reddy’s nephew H. Suresh Babu, uncle Sanna Fakeerappa, his wife’s relative Lallan Reddy and film-actor Saikumar are others from the Reddy camp that are contesting in the upcoming Karnataka elections from BJP ticket. Among them, Lallan Reddy has the other high-profile ticket to contest against the incumbent Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy from BTM layout in Bangalore.       

With tickets being denied to Yeddyurappa’s son B. Y. Vijendra, who had already begun campaigning in Varuna constituency, and to his close confidant and sitting M.P Shobha Karandlaje who is widely perceived to be a competent administrator, it appears that the chief ministerial candidate is cornered within his own party, which is now increasingly reliant on the Reddy brothers’ clout, which cannot be done without, even if it costs some embarrassment to the party’s national president Amit Shah and to Prime Minister Modi, who, after accusing Siddaramaiah-led Congress government of corruption, has been positioning himself as an anti-corruption crusader who can rid Karnataka off corruption.

“It is going to be a tough election. Every seat counts. Had we not taken them (the Reddy brothers) back in the party, they would have worked against us, defeating the BJP in at least 10-12 seats. Yeddyurappa’s ‘magic’ is also not working in the state. Left with no other option, we have welcomed them back, giving them seven seats,” a senior leader of Karnataka BJP reportedly told News 18.

However, it appears, the possibility of falling back on Reddy brothers’ support was something the party had been counting on, at least since September last year, when the CBI, firmly under the centre’s control, ended its investigation of the case against Janardhan Reddy at the very preliminary level, citing technical reasons.

Accusing BJP of extending political patronage to Reddy with the elections of this year in mind, JD(S) President Kumaraswamy had alleged , “There is a fixed deal. Reddy would give Rs 500 crore to BJP for the next election and all cases against him would be rendered too weak to probe. Why do you think properties that had been seized from him are now being given back?”

Santosh Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge and the Lokayukta of Karnataka from 2006-11, who had, in his report, meticulously drafted evidence against Janardhan Reddy, had also expressed his disappointment at the CBI’s decision.

“After submitting documented proof, the effort has been wasted,” he had complained, adding, “All the documents were attached with the report. So, was the material provided of no merit at all? Should we think about how the justice system works? I am sorry that it turned out this way.”

The report Hegde was referring was the second one regarding illegal mining operations in Bellary region. The first was submitted in 2008 soon after, under Yeddyurappa’s leadership, the first BJP government was formed in South India. Hegde was hopeful that action will be taken. In his second report, he noted:

“When I submitted my first Mining Report, I hoped that illegal mining would be reduced in the Districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur. But I am sorry to note that, the same has been increased very much after my first report, mainly because of the failure of the Government to implement that report.”
A Mafia type of operation to run the illegal mining racket

Far from implementing the report, Janardhana Reddy, who was then a cabinet minister under Yeddyurappa government, “took over as Minister Incharge of the District” after which the “Bellary District came to be referred to as “Republic of Bellary”.” Since Reddy’s appointment, “a mafia type of operation have started with the full connivance and support of Politicians” and various bureaucrats.

After he “took over as Incharge Minister of Bellary District, the entire administration system of mining has drastically changed,” Hegde wrote in the report. “[T]he system and officials were used by the Minister to the personal advantage of himself and his family. He has used the officials for the other mining companies to share their produce on the promise of providing.. [them] with all necessary permits and assuring them a free and uninterrupted transportation of their material to the destination of their choice.”

Further describing the intimidation and harassment Reddy used to coerce those who did not go along, Hegde elaborated, “There are instances when those companies or miners who did not agree to cooperate and accede to the demand of the minister or his followers… were refused transport permits, thus making the transportation of their produce impossible. The Minister has also used his muscle power and has organized trespassing into the mines owned by individuals/companies and compelled such companies..”

“No officer”, he said, “would dare to question his acts.. They supported his acts either for consideration or out of fear.” The Chief Conservator of Forests, U. V Singh, who was one of the main investigators contributing to the report, was also threatened while carrying out on-ground investigation by none other than Somashekara Reddy, who has now been given a party ticket by the BJP. Through this sophisticated combination of bribing, sharing of profits and intimidation, Janardhan Reddy facilitated illegal extraction and export of Rs.35,000 crore worth of iron ore.

“Very sadly,” Hegde added, the Yeddyurappa-led “government at Bangalore, though knew about all these irregularities, did not take any action to stop these irregularities, may be.. (because) this Minister and his followers are originally responsible for supporting and appointing the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister has reportedly stated once that there are irregularities happening in Bellary. But he is unable to stop it. The officials who were to work in Bellary and surrounding area were handpicked by this Minister, whether belonging to his portfolio or not they were posted in Bellary.”

The report also notes various instances of Yeddyurappa’s family members receiving tens of crores in “donations”, which in effect were alleged bribes. “At one stage”, however, perhaps sensing the dangers continuing these illegal operations will put his government into, the C.M Yeddyurappa fell out with the mining baron and, in an apparent attempt to put an end before it was too late, had all the relevant officers from Bellary transferred.

“But the clout of this Minister (Janardhana Reddy) was such that within a couple of days of the transfer, officers were reposted to their original places in Bellary.” “Sadly”, Hegde added, the Chief Minister “reportedly pleaded helpless”.

After the release of this report, which recommended the “Competent Authority to take appropriate steps to initiate criminal proceedings against the Chief Minister and such other persons who are involved”, Yeddyurappa was forced to resign by the party’s high command in June 2011. This was followed by his arrest in a Rs. 40 crore bribery case related to the illegal mining in October that year, a month after Janardhan Reddy was arrested.

Out on bail in 23 days, Yeddyurappa quit BJP the following year to flout his own party, writing an angry letter to the then party president Nitin Gadkari stating , “To make somebody Chief Minister, you removed me from the post. To make somebody Chief Minister and implement the conspiracies hatched by some vested elements in the party, I was repeatedly pilloried”.

But as the 2014 lok sabha elections came closer, Yeddyurappa announced the merger of his newly formed KJP (Karnataka Janata Party) with the BJP. In 2016, with BJP in the centre, a CBI court acquitted him. And in September last year, CBI’s anti-corruption Branch sent a missive, informing the Chief Secretary of Karnataka that the agency will be closing the preliminary investigation in Janardhan Reddy’s case.    

“The Modi government has come to the rescue of what the Kannadiga called the Bellari Gang… responsible for denuding Kannadigas of their rich natural resources through a puppet and captive CBI,” Surjewala of the Congress party has recently said.

With his announcement that the Congress party would order state officials to probe the case afresh, it appears that Janardhana Reddy, in order to avoid another prosecution, needs a victory of the BJP government, as much as the BJP government needs his clout to win.

Courtesy: Newsclick.in



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