The end of BS Yeddyurappa’s chief ministership and his exit from the BJP have not resulted in any loss of clout that the mining lobby exerts on the politics of Karnataka.
G Janardhana Reddy, one of the powerful Reddy brothers, is in jail but their influence continues. His elder brother and former member of Yeddyurappa’s cabinet, G Karunakara Reddy, is contesting as a BJP candidate in this election. V Somanna, also named in the lokayukta report on illegal mining, continues to be in the cabinet.
“The Reddy brothers were one of the reasons that the BJP came to power in Karnataka for the first time but the same relationship was the reason for the government’s collapse too. Janardhana Reddy was like the patron of the government,” a BJP leader said.
Senior leaders like Anant Kumar explain away the mining corruption taint, saying, “All the corrupt people are now out of the BJP.”
The Congress also has its mining barons, the Lads. Anil Lad is a Rajya Sabha MP and his cousin Santosh is contesting the assembly election from Kalghatgi in Dharwad.
Former lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, who indicted the mining barons in his report, told HT: “The Supreme Court has restricted illegal mining but the barons illegally made crores of rupees. I feel they will use this money in this election.”
Janardhana Reddy, two-time member of the legislative council, dreamed of becoming chief minister and believed his proximity to Sushma Swaraj, now Lok Sabha leader of the opposition, would help. Their acquaintance goes back to 1999, when Swaraj contested from Bellary against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and lost.
Reddy’s influence goes beyond the BJP; he had accused Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former CM HD Kumaraswamy in 2006-07 of taking a bribe of Rs. 150 crore from him.
Janardhana Reddy’s close friend Sri Ramulu, who started the BSR Congress and won the byelection from the Bellary rural constituency, is considered a proxy for the mining baron.