The last jaw-dropper from G Janardhana Reddy had come seven years ago on his birthday when he offered a diamond-studded crown to the Lord Venkateshwara temple in Tirupati. It was speculated at the time to cost more than Rs 40 crore, possibly the most expensive offering made to the deity in recent memory. Probably, the chat went, even since the 15th century Vijayanagar kings whose capital was Hampi.
It was that once glorious city that mining magnate Reddy recreated in Bangalore's sprawling Palace Grounds for his daugther Brahmani's wedding on Wednesday, an event that's been in the news for the past several weeks thanks to an elaborate LCD wedding invitation which went viral on social media. The wedding venue featured chariots, replicas of temples and mansions and, once again, there's speculation about the money the Bellary tycoon lavished on it. Embarrassingly for the BJP, it comes in the midst of a nationwide liquidity crunch from last week's currency demonetisation.
On Tuesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had pointed to the wedding to argue that the BJP's currency move hadn't affected its friends but has put the common man to inconvenience.
The wedding, however, also brought together former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and Reddy in a single frame, a sight last seen perhaps five years ago before both their fortunes nose-dived. To be sure, the guests at the wedding also included many other state BJP leaders such as Jagadish Shettar, Congressmen and Karnataka ministers G Parameshwar and D K Shivakumar and Kannada and Telugu film stars among other celebrities.
"The affection that all of you have shown has helped me forget the struggles that we went through in the last five years," Reddy told guests at the wedding, visuals of which were aired on the Kannada television channel he had launched a few years ago. Reddy, a minister in Karnataka's BJP government till 2011 when he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the midst of an iron ore mining scam, was granted bail last year and has kept away from the public glare all these months. By his side was his close friend and MP from Bellary, B Sreeramulu. The taint of corruption from the mining scam had led to the BJP's defeat in the 2013 state elections.
Political commentator Prof. Harish Ramaswamy says the show of wealth could at best be irksome to the BJP considering it's happening during the demonetisation but he doesn't reckon it will make a dent in the politics of either the BJP or the Congress in Karnataka. Reddy, he says, is something of a spent force for the BJP at the moment.
"He (Reddy) has nothing to lose by going ahead with the marriage, which is much more important and personal to him," says Ramaswamy, professor of political science at the Karnatak University in Dharwad. For that matter, he says, it would not make much difference either for Yeddyurappa who, last month, got a clean chit in a corruption case that had cost him the Chief Minister's post in 2011. The acquittal in the case is seen to strengthen Yeddyurappa's hand as the party gears up for elections in 2018. "Yeddyurappa knows clearly that this is not in any way going to be a context politically in terms of fighting the Congress in the state or rejuvenating the BJP,”" says Ramaswamy. "The only context where Janardhana Reddy becomes an irksome issue to the BJP is with regard to the demonetisation.”"