The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks at Karnataka as a possible entry into the political scene of Southern India. The defeat of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the bye-elections in the state of Karnataka demonstrates that this grand dream of the party will not be realised. Bye-elections were held in three Lok Sabha seats and two Assembly seats on November 3, 2018. The Lok Sabha seats were contested for in Bellary, Shimoga and Mandya, and the Assembly seats in Jamkhandi and Ramanagara. The contest was mainly between the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition and the BJP. The former won four out of these five seats, while BJP could win only Shimoga.
Are these results of the bye-elections, a warning for the party that has set an ambitious target of winning more than 20 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections? On one hand, the loss of BJP in, what was believed to be its traditional constituency, Bellary, is being seen as a reflection of the party’s downfall in the state; on the other, Gali Janardhan Reddy, one of the infamous Reddy brothers of Bellary and a face of BJP along with B Sriramulu, is now named in a Ponzi scheme scam. Reddy is reportedly absconding and the Central Crime Branch (CCB) is tracking him. So, is history repeating itself?
Ambidant Marketing Pvt Ltd is an investment company which is owned by Sayed Ahmed Fareed company. The company, according to a report in India Today, had promised people 40% returns on their investments. However, none of the investors got any returns. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) took over the case following a complaint by one of the investors. According to a Economic Times report, during investigation, the CCB found a particular transaction of Rs 18 crore being made by Ambidant to one Ramesh Kothari, who runs Ambika Jewellers in Bengaluru. This particular transaction, according to various reports, brought into light the political hands behind the scam.
Rs 18 crore was routed to another man named Ramesh who runs Raj Mahal Fancy Jewellers in Bellary. After police interrogation, he confided that the money was given to Janardhana Reddy’s personal assistant, Ali, in form of gold bars. Fareed has reportedly claimed that Reddy and his associates told him they will help him get rid of ED cases. Fareed and Ramesh were arrested and Fareed is out on bail and the police are in look out for Janardhana Reddy.
Bellary holds a special place in the heart of BJP. As a report in the Deccan Herald noted, the constituency, once a Congress bastion, has been the scene of the famous electoral battle in which AICC president Sonia Gandhi made her electoral debut defeating senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in 1999. Janardhan Reddy had made his political debut by campaigning for Ms Swaraj, along with his brothers. However, the BJP took over Bellary from 2004 and the Reddy brothers and Sriramulu rose to prominence during this period. They had established their “Kingdom” there.
The iron ore mining scam of Bellary, which had come to light in 2011, had unveiled the Kingdom of corruption that the then BJP government led by Chief Minister, B S Yeddyurappa, had established in the state. The mining scam that had pushed the state government into a loss worth Rs 1 lakh crore had resulted in the resignation of Yeddyurappa. Janardhana Reddy and B Sriramulu, both accused in what is known to be the biggest scam in the history of Karnataka, still continue to be BJP members. Sriramulu, who also is the party head in the state, also had campaigned for his sister J Shanta who was the BJP contestant in Bellary in the recent bye-elections.
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It is a public secret that the “King” of the “Republic of Bellary”, as what the Lokayukta of the state would address him as, Janardhan Reddy and his brothers, fund the BJP; and were responsible for the formation of the BJP government in the past. Explaining this Justice, Santosh Hegde, in his meticulous report which was responsible for ousting of the BJP government, had noted, “Yeddyurappa-led government at Bangalore, though knew about all these irregularities, did not take any action to stop these irregularities, may be.. (because) this Minister and his followers are originally responsible for supporting and appointing the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister has reportedly stated once that there are irregularities happening in Bellary. But he is unable to stop it. The officials who were to work in Bellary and the surrounding area were handpicked by this Minister, whether belonging to his portfolio or not they were posted in Bellary.”
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Reddy’s repeated involvement in the multi-crore scams painting the saffron party as a corrupt party and the loss that the party in the recent by-elections, has posed serious existential questions for the party in the state. Even though Amit Shah just few weeks before the state assembly elections in May 2018 had declared, "BJP has no relationship with Janardhan Reddy," Reddy was seen campaigning for his close aid Sriramulu in Badami that election. BJP also was to make Sriramulu the deputy Chief Minister if the party had formed its government. Somashekar Reddy, one of the three Reddy brothers, himself had told NDTV that, “BJP is the mother of all Reddy brothers. All three Reddys are in the BJP.”