Mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy
The CBI filed applications against Gali Janardhana Reddy, G Lakshmi Aruna (since discharged in the case), IAS officer ME Shivalinga Murthy, IFS officer S Muthaiah, K Mehfuz Ali Khan, SP Raju, Mahesh A Patil and former Ranger Forest Officer H Ramamurthy. File photo of Janardhan Reddy.

Janardhana Reddy’s new party may hurt BJP’s Karnataka poll prospects

Mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy, once imprisoned in connection with an illegal mining scam, is now trying to start a new chapter in Bellary politics. After his bid to re-enter Karnataka politics was snubbed by the BJP, Reddy has broken his silence after 12 years and launched the Kalyana Rajya Pragati Paksha (KRPP) to make his presence felt.

Reddy’s re-entry might harm the BJP or help the Congress, but it will be limited to Bellary and Vijayanagara districts. It is not likely to be significant in Kalyana Karnataka (north Karnataka districts), though he has named his party after the region.

However, Bellary politics is significant. It helped BS Yeddyurappa form the government in 2008, later mired the BJP’s image through infighting and illegal mining scams, and forced BSY’s resignation from the chief minister’s post and his imprisonment in the illegal mining scam for a small period.

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Now the question is, can Reddy play the same politics? Answer is yes, to some extent.

A headache for BJP

It has been almost 12 years since his arrest by the CBI in the illegal mining case forced Reddy out of state politics. Though the Supreme Court released him on bail in 2015, the BJP kept him out of politics. His brothers Gali Somashekhara Reddy and Gali Karunakara Reddy became MLAs from Bellary city and Harapanahalli constituencies, respectively, in Bellary district.

Reddy, once the person behind ‘Operation Lotus’ (poaching MLAs from other parties) and instrumental in opening the South Gate in Karnataka for the BJP, has now returned to politics with a new party. “I will take a step forward by establishing the new party as I am not getting the desired status in the party I worked for,” he said.

Thus, he has become a potential headache for the state BJP, as it faces a leadership crisis, scams, and anti-incumbency factors, making it weaker ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections.

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Reddy, along with his brothers Someshekhar and Karunakar, and his bestie B Sriramulu, was instrumental in bringing the BJP to power in 2008. The Reddy brothers were then trapped in the illegal mining scam, prompting Sriramulu to launch the BSR (Badavara Shramikara Raitara) Congress. It bagged only four Assembly seats, but became a reason for the BJP to lose the 2013 elections.

BSR Congress pinched a 2.7 per cent vote share from the BJP. At the same time, BSY also launched his party KJP, which bagged 10 per cent of the total votes polled and restricted the BJP to just 40 seats, compared to the 110 it had in the outgoing assembly.

“Not a good development”

Political observers say the same situation is being repeated 10 years later, with Sriramulu indirectly supporting Reddy’s new party and working against his own party, the BJP, unknowingly. The sidelined Yeddyurappa and his attempt to push his son BY Vijayendra to prominence is also said to be a threat to the BJP’s hope. Ten years ago, they were outside the BJP and now they are inside it, but not on good terms. Party sources said it will help the opponent Congress.

“Karnataka politics is different, and the party did not plan considering the Reddy/Sriramulu or even the BSY factors,” a senior leader said.

The state BJP is not said to be in a good position to please voters in the 2023 Assembly elections. It’s facing allegations of corruption and scams and the anti-incumbency factor. Now, Reddy’s party and his money power may eat into BJP votes in a few Assembly seats in the Bellary region.

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“Reddy’s new party announcement is not a good development. This issue was in the news for a week. I will try to keep him in the BJP. I don’t know why he wants to establish a new party,” said Karnataka Law Minister JC Madhuswamy.

Eye on anti-BJP, minority votes

The BJP was suspecting Reddy and Sriramulu, who is a minister in the BJP government, of trying to strengthen the YSR Congress or re-launching the BSR Congress in the state. But now, Reddy has launched the KRPP and seems to be eyeing a stronghold in Kalyana Karnataka, earlier called Hyderabad Karnataka. The region comprises Bidar, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppala, Kalaburgi, Bellary, and Vijayanagara districts, which are part of North Karnataka.

A senior BJP leader said Reddy’s move may shake the vote bases of both the BJP and the Congress, especially in constituencies like Koppal and Bellary, where Reddy has some clout. He is said to have established the party by trusting the Reddy family’s vote bank in Bellary, Raichur, Koppal, and Gadag districts, but his main target is bagging the anti-BJP votes.

Reddy is keeping an eye on minority votes, too. He has already allocated Rs 6 crore for the renovation of Gangavati Dargah in Koppal. Apart from that, he was recently involved in a programme at a Christian community school in Gangavathi. But his target of making a dent in the Congress vote base will not be easy, as he has a credibility issue.

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Sources close to Reddy say he will try to prevent the anti-BJP votes from going to the Congress in Bellary, Koppal, and Raichur. Also, he is keeping an eye on the backward class in these districts and there is a slim chance the Congress votes will be divided. He also has plans to lure the leaders who will be deprived of tickets by the national parties in the next election.

However, the moment Reddy announced the KRPP, people started saying that it was the BJP’s B-team. They believe Reddy founded it to split the anti-BJP Hindu and minority votes. Rumours are rife on social media that there is a BJP hand in this. Reddy’s inclusion in the party will damage its reputation, which is why a new party has been formed.

Sriramulu’s move

Sriramulu, who aspired for the deputy CM’s post but was sidelined by the BJP, plays the safe game. Commenting on Reddy’s announcement of a new party, he said, “Reddy is a close friend of mine. He was the BJP’s strength, and the party stood as strong for him. BJP never left him. He is an experienced politician, who has thought and taken a decision.”

“So far, I have stood with Reddy as a rock. I will continue to be a friend. But politics and friendship are different. All our leaders always stood with Reddy,” he added.

“Reddy stayed away from BJP for many years. Even though he has announced a new party, he will remain in favour of the BJP. He will return to BJP,” said MLC CP Yogeshwar.

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