The rising popularity of the ‘Reddy brothers’ in Ballari is giving sleepless nights to Congress leaders and workers, who fear that the BJP might recapture the district from its’ clutches all over again. 

A few years ago, the Congress had ruled the roost in Ballari for several years. The party had never been prepared for the Reddy brothers’ onslaught, which ultimately paved way for the BJP to make inroads into the district.

However, after the arrest of mining baron and former minister G Janardhan Reddy in September 2011, the Congress had regained its hold on the district in the year 2013. But it seems like the tables might turn all over again.

Reddy, ever since he got out on bail in January 2015, has been making his presence felt all over the North Karnataka districts. Though the Supreme Court has banned his entry into Ballari (his hometown) and Kadapa (where his Obalapuram Mining Company is located), Reddy has been rigorously touring in Koppal and Gadag districts.

He has also expressed his desire to contest the 2018 Assembly polls. Reddy, who is facing a series of cases related to illegal mining, may or may not be fielded by the BJP. However, it is rumoured that he is vying for a ticket from Gadag. Meanwhile, his kin and associates, who are also elected representatives, have been quietly doing ground work in their respective constituencies. 

Little wonder that the Congressmen in Ballari have become jittery - so much so that they even broached the subject before AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka KC Venugopal, who met with them in Bengaluru on May 23. 

They are learnt to have cautioned the Venugopal team about the re-emergence of the Reddy brothers, if the leadership does not address the problems in Ballari, and settle the differences between the Lad brothers (Anil and Santhosh). While Anil Lad is an MLA from Ballari City, Santhosh is a minister in Siddaramaiah’s cabinet. He is also the district-in-charge minister.

When Asianet Newsable reached out to some of the leaders of the district, they conceded that they were worried that the ‘Reddy’ factor might damage Congress’ prospects in the upcoming elections. The leaders, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said that Congress in Ballari was already ailing under the anti-incumbency factor. Congress currently hold five out of the nine Assembly constituencies in Ballari. 

The other three seats are held by MLAs from the Reddy camp. While T R Suresh Babu had won on a BSR(Congress) ticket from Kampli, B Nagendra had contested as an Independent from Kudligi. Anand Singh had won on a BJP ticket from Vijayanagara. The JD(S) had then managed to capture one seat with Bheema Naik winning from Hadagali.

According to Congress leaders, after winning the five seats, none of the party sitting MLAs had bothered to cultivate their constituencies or retain the confidence of the electorate.
With the Congress leadership having completely sidelined the old timers from the region, the rift between the leaders have been continuously widening.

Sources said that Congress doesn’t stand the chance of winning more than two or three seats, if the leadership fails to wake up from its slumber and address the issues.

So what’s working in Reddy’s favour?

Post Janardhan Reddy’s arrest, leaders from the Reddy camp changed their tact. Not only did they make themselves available to the people and gained their sympathy, they also shunned their old ways. “They have stopped harassing people through rowdyism. When the BJP was in power, there were a lot of atrocity cases filed against people from the upper caste. All this has completely stopped. With the BJP having decided to take them all back into its fold, there are every chances that the saffron party will recapture Ballari with the help of the Reddy brothers,” said a leader. Moreover, Reddy himself is said to have retained his popularity, despite his arrest.

“Janardhan Reddy is still considered a charismatic leader by the public. Even today he gets a rousing welcome wherever he goes. He is like Bihar’s Lalu Prasad Yadav in Ballari. He is extremely ambitious and knows that he can mobilise votes through his money and muscle power. He will definitely play a game to come back to power,” said another leader.

 

Reddy’s brother Somashekar Reddy, is vying for a BJP ticket from Ballari City, while it is rumoured that Sreeramulu will resign from his MP membership and contest from Ballari Rural. Suresh Babu and Nagendra are likely to contest from their own constituencies on a BJP ticket. The mining baron has also been devoting a lot of time towards the Reddy community that he represents.  Recently, Reddy was invited to participate in the Hema-Vema Akhila Karnataka Reddy Janangada Mahasamavesha in Bengaluru.

Though there were other leaders from the same community, including Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy and JD(S) MP Kuppendra Reddy, Janardhan Reddy received a standing ovation when he made his entry. He has also been frequenting the Reddy dominant taluks like Chikkaballapur and Kolar, which is said to translate into votes for the BJP.