When the 1999 lok sabha elections were announced and Congress President, Sonia Gandhi a greenhorn in politics then, chose Bellary as one of the two constituencies to contest, the reason why she chose it was because it was considered one of the safest constituencies for the party in the country. Congress had never been defeated before there, and despite the BJP strong-woman Sushma Swaraj deciding to contest against Sonia, the Congress’ faith was not betrayed.
However, the Congress was given a scare during the campaign, as the BJP put up an unprecedented fight. As speculations started doing the round about how suddenly BJP had gained so much ground in a constituency, where it never existed before, the names of Reddy brothers(Karunakara, Janardhan and Somashekara) was heard in whispers. The rumours about them spending a lot of money to project Sushma and how they had left behind some of the well known leaders behind in the constituency in terms of organizing the campaign was also heard. But they were hardly seen.
Sushma lost the election, but the Reddy brothers had managed to acquire a heavyweight patron as well as legitimacy. Sushma’s benign blessings and her decision to attend the annual Varamahalakshmi pooja in the residence of Reddy brothers in Bellary started from 2000 onwards, and from every visit of hers annually, their clout also started to grow.
Around the same time their fledgling mining business, boomed, as China started importing iron ore, and the Reddy brothers’ daily profits were rumoured to be anywhere between Rs.3 to 5 crore! With the newly acquired wealth and the clout of Sushma Swaraj behind them, the Reddy brothers grew from strength to strength.
By the time the 2004 elections to both the Lok Sabha and Karnataka Assembly was declared, the Reddy brothers had acquired so much clout that the two of them were given tickets, Janardhan Reddy, the middle of the three brothers and the master-mind behind their business and politics, got the ticket to Assembly and his elder brother, Karunakara Reddy, for the Lok Sabha.
Both won, and with it ended the monopoly the Congress had over the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency for over five decades, and also the hold over the district.
Meanwhile the Reddys had started acquiring a lot of wealth through legal and illegal(more illegal) mining, real estate and other businesses. They were also aided by the coming to power of Y.S.Rajashekara Reddy, in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, with whom they had struck by then a close friendship, despite being in rival parties. YSR and Reddy brothers formed a nexus, and it is now all unraveling, as the CBI investigations into the wealth and properties of the Reddy brothers and the son of YSR, Jagan Mohan Reddy spills out.
Janardhan Reddy , who is rumoured to have slept on silver bed, and sat on golden chairs, his wealth was the path to political power. The BJP which encouraged the brothers and their right hand man, B.Sriramulu, right through the decade of 2000, and used their wealth to win elections and buy up rival party MLAs, in several “Operatio Kamala”, it is now testing time. However the party is unwilling to give up on them, as the brothers hold too many secrets of many leaders, both at the Central and State level.
Though Janardhan Reddy is jailed in Hyderabad, following the arrest by the CBI, with his cousin, Srinivasa Reddy,the BJP leadership continues to make noises in their favour. The clout of the Reddys despite the Lok Ayuktha indictment and later the CBI arrest, is evident from the fact that the BJP President Nitin Gadkari landed in their house for the last Varamahalakshmi pooja, after Sushma Swaraj distanced herself from the brothers.
It is rumoured in the State BJP circles that the Reddy brothers have gifted a golden sword and a Rs.1.5 crore worth car to the BJP President on the occasion.
However, whatever effort a section of the BJP leadership may make to keep their doors open for the Reddy brothers, their woes are not going to end in a hurry. The CBI’s as well as the Lok Ayuktha’s list of charges against the Reddy brothers are so long and so elaborate that it will take a long time for them to escape, if ever they do.
The recent revealations from the Lok Ayuktha report about the way in which the entire illegal mining operations were being controlled by Janardhan Reddy through Karapudi Mahesh is also a damning indictment, which is yet to be taken up by the Karnataka Lok Ayuktha. The CBI’s cases in Andhra Pradesh itself will take a long while, even as the Lok Ayuktha in Karnataka will now move in anytime to launch prosecutions.
Meanwhile, the huge amount of gold, silver, cash and man many incriminating documents recovered and yet to be recovered has shown that the weak protests by some BJP leaders about Centre launching a witch hunt against the Reddy brothers don’t stand scrutiny.
For Janardhan Reddy who at one time entertained hopes of becoming the Chief Minister of Karnataka, and held the BJP leadership under his control, the times have changed fast. From the luxurious bungalow in Bellary to the jail in Hyderabad it has been rapid fall. The growth and fall of the Reddy brothers on the Indian political firmament just in a matter of 12 years, is a lesson for all political parties, which have been encouraging and basking in the glory of such dubious moneybags, who from being behind the scene operators claimed and got centre stage. It is soul-searching time for all political parties.