February 28, 2020
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Smelting Point

How will the Bellary Reddy arrest play out for the BJP?

Smelting Point
P. Anil Kumar
Smelting Point

On August 26, nine days before his arrest by the CBI, Gali Janardhana Reddy met wellwishers for a free-wheeling chat on his political future. The meeting, held at the Obulapuram Mining Corporation (OMC) office in Bellary, began at 10 in the night and lasted for over three hours. During the the meeting, Reddy is said to have expressed “extreme disappointment” with the BJP’s top leadership. He felt “used” and “betrayed” and was bitter about senior leaders like Nitin Gadkari, L.K. Advani and B.S. Yediyurappa. Former ‘godmother’ Sushma Swaraj too wasn’t spared.

Reddy was particularly cut up with Sushma. He said he’d realised her “true nature” way back in ’06 itself when she had come to attend the annual Varamahalakshmi puja in Bellary. The BJP-JD(S) coalition government was in place at the time and Reddy by then had made his Rs 150-crore bribe allegation against the sitting CM, H.D. Kumaraswamy. All through the day, Sushma apparently attended various functions with Reddy but didn’t speak a word or make eye contact. He had felt miserable the way she ignored him. But later, she sent for him at the guesthouse and, when he arrived, chided him for making the bribe charges against the CM. Then she gave him hurried lessons in politics and, before packing him off, spoke of how she was sidelined in Haryana politics for nearly a decade for taking on the veterans there.

The message to Reddy was clear. “Even then I knew, if it comes to the crunch she will not stand by us,” Reddy apparently revealed to his friends. “There’s no use continuing with the BJP anymore, everybody has deserted us,” he concluded and threw up the idea of forming a separate party with B. Sriramulu, his close confidant and former minister, as its face. He even claimed the support of 22 legislators, eight of whom he had already sent off on a holiday to Malaysia.

Meanwhile, in Andhra Pradesh, there is likely to be another fallout. YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy looks to be in trouble. The CBI, currently probing Jagan’s business empire, is trying to establish links between the Reddy brothers and Jagan’s businesses—whether illegal wealth was routed from one to another. The TDP as well as the ruling Congress have Jagan in their crosshairs.

Back in Karnataka, with the simmering bitterness causing Reddy to hatch alternate plans, should the BJP government in Karnataka or the central command worry? What if a jailed and desperate Reddy implicates the party leadership? There are no definite responses to these questions yet, but for the moment, there’s a great sense of relief in both the party state unit and the government.

“Let’s assume that they attack Venkaiah and Sushma. It could be a blessing in disguise. They are too partisan.”

One senior minister, speaking to Outlook, said the time had come to “dump” the Reddys. “In case they bring down the government, the blame will squarely be on them and all controversies surrounding our government will be forgotten in a jiffy...that will only help us in the polls,” he argued. He also doubted Sriramulu’s ability to mobilise people. “In 2008, the Reddys brought in a margin of votes that made a difference, but between then and now a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. Even in 2009, they struggled to win the Bellary LS seat,” he says.

A senior party functionary was more candid, “Let’s assume that they attack leaders like Sushma and Venkaiah Naidu, it could be a blessing in disguise. These leaders have anyway become too partisan. Their only agenda these days is targeting Narendra Modi, who is the party’s only hope. If the Reddys attack Yediyurappa, it doesn’t matter as he is already in the dock. Advani doesn’t figure in their scheme of things and it is unlikely that they will name Gadkari. Anyway, at the party level, we had no financial dealings with the Reddys. They funded their people directly and never routed money through the party,” he says.

Sources in the RSS though have a slightly different spin. They say a good thing about the present scenario is that bsy and Reddy can’t walk away with party legislators anymore. Once Yeddy goes to jail, they also see factional wars coming to an end. “CM Sadananda Gowda will continue. He’ll get the goodwill of the dominant Vokkaliga community to which he belongs and also coastal Karnataka from where he hails. Closer to the 2013 assembly polls, a credible Lingayat leader like Jagadish Shettar, who narrowly missed out on being CM, can be made state president to win back the party’s traditional north Karnataka and Lingayat votebase.”

The only thing wrong with this cosy picture is that the Reddys are yet to show their hand. And they could be holding a few cards that upsets the whole table.

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