The entire Reddy clan, led by then minister Gali Janardhana Reddy, reacted angrily, daring Siddaramaiah to visit their fiefdom Bellary “if he had the guts”. They even threatened that they would beat him to death if goes there.
Thumping his chest, Siddaramaiah warned the Reddy brothers that he would lead a 350-km-long march of the Congress party to Bellary to “teach them a lesson”.
Siddaramaiah led that famous ‘padayathra’ to Bellary in August and held a massive rally of the Congress against the Reddy brothers’ “mafia”. That event changed public perception in favour of him and the Reddy empire started to crumble.
A year later, BS Yeddyurappa was forced to quit as the Chief Minister over the Rs 50,000 crore mining scam while the Reddys were arrested by the CBI and sent to jail. Two years later, when Siddaramaiah led the Congress to victory in Karnataka, Janardhana Reddy was cooling his heels at Chachalguda jail in Hyderabad. His empire was in shambles and Reddy was a persona non grata for the BJP.
After spending almost four years in jail as an undertrial, Janardhana Reddy managed to come out of it but the BJP was not ready to touch him even with a barge pole and the Siddaramaiah government sent him to jail once again in other mining cases.
After a few months, he came out of jail and declared before his inner circle that it was now a personal battle between him and Siddaramaiah and that he would “teach him a lesson” in the next Assembly elections.
As promised, Janardhana Reddy is now back in full form. He efficiently led the BJP campaign in Karnataka, threatening to unseat Siddaramaiah.
Seven members of the Reddy clan secured BJP tickets just two weeks after BJP chief Amit Shah disowned Janardhana Reddy in a press meet in Karnataka.
Political analysts in the state argue that after realising that bringing the BJP back to power is an uphill task, the party high command reluctantly went back to the infamous Reddy brothers to achieve its goal.
“It is going to be a tough election. Every seat counts. Had we not taken them 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 the state BJP had said.
The Reddy brothers still enjoy a lot of clout in Bellary, neighbouring Chitradurga and Raichur districts. Their Man Friday and Bellary MP B Sriramulu is a popular leader among the Scheduled Tribes.
Despite negative comments from the public and media alike, the BJP has taken them back keeping the election outcome in mind, said a local BJP leader.
In 2008, the Reddys were credited with bringing the BJP to power in a southern state with their money and muscle power. Within a month of coming to power, they started making impossible demands with Yeddyurappa and finally led to the disintegration of the BJP three years later.
Proving his political obituary writers completely wrong, Janardhana Reddy has come back roaring and that too with the promise that the BJP will rule once again. His younger brother G Somashekhara Reddy has got the ticket from Bellary city, ‘Man Friday’ B Sriramulu is contesting from two seats — Molakalmuru and Badami, his relatives Sanna Fakeerappa and Suresh Babu have also got tickets, Reddy’s elder brother G Karunakara Reddy, who is not on good terms with the clan, has also secured party ticket from Harapanahalli and one more relative Lallesh Reddy has got nomination from BTM Layout in Bengaluru.
Interestingly, Sriramulu is taking on Siddaramaiah in Badami and Lallesh Reddy is facing Home Minister R Ramalingareddy in BTM Layout.
For the first time, seven members from the Reddy clan are in the race for Vidhana Soudha, making many BJP leaders uncomfortable. “It was a high command decision. What can we do? We are embarrassed, but helpless,” said a spokesman.
The ruling Congress has made the return of the Reddys a big election issue, calling the BJP a corrupt party that is promising a corruption-free Karnataka. It has also taken a dig at Yeddyurappa who could not secure a nomination even for his son Vijayendra against Siddaramaiah’s son Yatheendra in Varuna.
The Congress has also accused the BJP-led Centre of helping the Reddy brothers by diluting serious criminal charges against them for political benefits.
Reddy brothers also have a personal reason to side with the BJP because of the Siddaramaiah government’s decision to reinvestigate the iron ore export scam even after the CBI closed the case.
The Congress engineered the defection of two Reddy loyalists during party president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Bellary and fielded them on party ticket. It has also unnerved the Reddy camp. It fears that if the Congress retains power, it can spell doom for their family. In the crucial battle for Karnataka, both the BJP and the Reddys are fighting for their survival.
Curiously, the JD(S), which was earlier vocal about the Reddy brothers, is maintaining total silence over the Reddys second innings.
If the Reddys win, Siddaramaiah may face trouble. If Siddaramaiah retains power, Reddys will surely be in trouble once again.