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HomePoliticsHow new Vijayanagara could resurrect mining baron Janardhana Reddy's political career

How new Vijayanagara could resurrect mining baron Janardhana Reddy’s political career

The district of Ballari — home turf of the powerful Reddy brothers Janardhana, Somashekara and Karunakara — was bifurcated this week to form Karnataka’s 31st district, Vijayanagara.

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Bengaluru: A decision he once opposed may now set the stage for Ballari mining baron and former BJP Karnataka minister Gali Janardhana Reddy’s political rebirth.

The district of Ballari — home turf of the powerful Reddy brothers Janardhana, Somashekara and Karunakara — was bifurcated this week to form Karnataka’s 31st district, Vijayanagara. 

Reddy currently can’t visit Ballari without court permission — in keeping with a condition set by the Supreme Court in 2015 while granting him bail in a case regarding an alleged Rs 16,000 crore mining scam.

Sources in Reddy’s team told ThePrint he is hopeful that the restrictions won’t apply to to Vijayanagara, saying that he is looking to start his next political innings from the district headquarters at Hospet.

ThePrint reached Reddy by phone but he refused to comment on the matter. 

Karnataka minister B. Sriramulu, who has been known to be close to the Reddy brothers, said “it is upto him to decide on his political career”. “There is no doubt he enjoys the love and support of the people of Ballari even today,” he added. 

Legal experts are, however, split on whether the bifurcation will affect the restrictions imposed on Reddy for visiting Ballari.

Also Read: Return of the Ballari brothers shows how desperate BJP is for Karnataka

‘Still powerful’

The Reddy brothers are nearly synonymous with the district of Ballari. In his report on alleged illegal mining in the district, former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde had described the district as “Republic of Ballari” to emphasise the strength of the Reddys’ hold.  

According to the 2011 report, mining permits in the area were given only at the behest of the Reddys and iron ore illegally exported. The report estimated that the illegal operations lost the state exchequer Rs 16,085 crore.

Accused of using money and intimidation to wield political power, the three brothers have served as ministers in the state and even funded candidates for local elections. 

Janardhana Reddy was arrested in 2011 over allegations of illegal mining. As part of his bail conditions, Reddy was barred from entering three districts — Anantapur and Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh and Ballari in Karnataka, where he is accused of running illegal mining operations — without court permission.

Despite the bar, he has been known to play a key role in guiding local politics from his farmhouse on the outskirts of Chitradurga district, roughly 50 km from Ballari.  

During the 2018 assembly election, hundreds of BJP supporters would visit him at the farmhouse. It is from here that he is believed to have overseen Sriramulu’s entire assembly election campaign that year.  

“Janardhan Reddy has been closely monitoring the developments and he had a big hand in Sriramulu’s win in Molakalmuru,” said a senior BJP leader.  

Despite then BJP president Amit Shah’s statement in 2018 that the party’s association with the tainted brothers was over, some of their close associates were given tickets by the BJP. 

While B. Sriramulu was projected as the Dalit face of the party from Molkalmuru, Somashekara was fielded from Ballari. Sriramulu’s uncle Sanna Fakirappa was nominated from Ballari Rural and T.H. Suresh Babu, the minister’s nephew, from Kampli. 

During the campaign, Reddy even shared the dais with B.S. Yediyurappa — then the state BJP chief — and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. 

“He may not be in power. He may have gone to jail, but he still remains powerful,” said Pranesh Reddy, a supporter of the Reddy brothers. 

A new turf?

The proposal to bifurcate Ballari is said to be aimed at boosting development in the six taluks that now constitute Vijayanagara. The demand has been led by Anand Singh, the MLA for Hospete. 

Singh is a former Congress MLA who jumped ship to the BJP in 2019, when the latter returned to power in the state after the collapse of the JD(S)-Congress government. At the time, Singh, it is learnt, made it clear that he would offer his support to the Yediyurappa government if he agreed to forming Vijayanagara. 

Over the past few years, the Reddy brothers have opposed plans to bifurcate Ballari, even accusing Singh, a former friend, of persuading Yediyurappa to take the decision for his “selfish” motives. 

However, they eventually came around to it as the bifurcation decision gained momentum.

Sirigeri Pannaraj, a senior advocate from Ballari, said Reddy is free to visit Vijayanagara. “He is allowed to visit Hospete, though he is seen camping near Chitradurga, which is, location-wise, closer to Ballari.” 

However, Bengaluru-based lawyer B.T. Venkatesh said the bail order is open to interpretation. “If the court interprets that Vijayanagara is not connected to Ballari, then Reddy could possibly take the political plunge. If the court considers the region as one, then he will not be allowed to do so,” he added.

Also Read: Despite return of Reddy brothers, BJP finds little fortune in Ballari’s political mines


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