Reddy Brothers
L-R: Reddy brothers Somashekhara, Karunakara and Janardhan, along with close confidant B. Sriramulu | By special arrangement
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BJP gave tickets to 7 Reddy family members and friends, but only 3 won – brothers Karunakara and Somashekara Reddy, and B. Sriramulu from Molkalmuru.

Bengaluru: Standing on the floor of the Karnataka assembly in 2010, Siddaramaiah had thumped his chest and proclaimed that his ‘Bellary chalo’ yatra would “teach the Reddy brothers a lesson”.

The yatra was designed as an attempt to ‘expose’ the mining scam-accused Reddy brothers, who ran the ‘Republic of Bellary’, as alleged by former state Lokayukta Santosh Hedge.

But as it happened, both the Congress and the BJP had to turn to the mining lobby for electoral gains in the now-renamed Ballari region. The BJP gave tickets to two of the Reddy brothers – Karunakara and Somashekara – and five of their aides, including Ballari MP B. Sriramulu, while the Congress fielded mining barons Anand Singh, B. Nagendra and the Lad brothers.

On result day though, it became clear that the mining lobby, and the Reddy brothers in particular, did not have the big bang effect the national parties were hoping for. While Karunakara and Somashekara won from Harapanahalli and Ballari City respectively, Sriramulu won from Molkalmuru and lost to Siddaramaiah from Badami. For the Congress, Singh and Nagendra won from Vijayanagara and Ballari Rural, but the Lad brothers lost.

Fall and rise

The massive padayatra that Siddaramaiah led in August 2010 had its effect, as the public perception of the Reddy brothers changed. Yeddyurappa too had to step down from the post of CM after his alleged involvement in the illegal mining case was exposed by the Lokayukta.

Janardhan Reddy, the youngest brother and the head of the family’s political and business empire, was sent to jail. Slowly and steadily, the family’s fortunes crumbled. But this did not stop the Reddy brothers from losing hope.

The Reddy brothers had become the byword for alleged corruption; time and again, their names were taken by Congress leaders as an example of how criminal activities had bled the state coffers. Janardhan was even barred from entering Ballari by the courts.

And yet, by the time the 2018 elections rolled around, it was clear that the Reddys’ clout had reduced only slightly. While BJP chief Amit Shah steered clear of them, the party’s state president and chief ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa said he had forgiven the Reddys “for the benefit of the state”.

Role during the campaign

Janardhan parked himself 50 km away from Ballari, in a bungalow in Hangal, and campaigned day and night for Sriramulu. He also monitored the campaigns of his two older brothers. The family reportedly spent huge amounts of money to ensure that votes did not shift away from them — they had obviously saved enough funds for a sunny day, which turned out to be election season.

All this evidently helped them succeed in some seats in Ballari and Chitradurga districts of the ‘Hyderabad-Karnataka’ region. But for the BJP, which tried hard to ride the Reddys to electoral riches, the mines of Ballari turned out to be shallower than predicted.

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