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I never left the BJP, no question of comeback: Janardhana Reddy

In an interview with HT, former BJP minister Gali Janardhana Reddy answers questions related to the upcoming Karnataka polls among others.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: Apr 26, 2018 17:43 IST
Janardhana Reddy,Siddaramaiah,Karnataka polls
Former BJP minister Janardhan Reddy during an interview with Hindustan Times in Chitradurga on April 21.(Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

Controversial mining baron and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister in Karnataka, Gali Janardhana Reddy, is credited with helping the party form its first government in a southern state. While BJP president Amit Shah may have declared the party has nothing to do with him, Reddy’s two brothers have got tickets and he is managing his friend and BJP candidate BS Sriramulu’s campaign in Molkalumuru. In an interview with HT, he says he was jailed for 43 months on trumped-up charges as part of a Congress conspiracy. Edited excerpts:

Q. How does it feel to be back in public life after seven years?

A.I have always been in public. For the past three years, I have travelled across the state and participated in community programmes. And wherever I go, BJP workers meet me.

Q. How does it feel to be away from Ballari, since you have been banned from entering the district by the Supreme Court?

A. I have never been away. Even when I am in Bengaluru or anywhere else in the state, my well-wishers come and meet me always.

Q. There are cases of illegal mining against you, do you feel now, with some acquittals, you have overcome these?

A. The public and party workers know the facts. Initially, [chief minister] Siddaramaiah said it was a Rs 1 lakh crore scam, but only the other day he said it was Rs 25,000 crore. It is clear that the claims were false.

I felt very bad, of course, because my friends in the media never looked at the chargesheet. They were only interested in writing colourfully without checking facts. But, the fact is, 90% of cases have been quashed by the courts and I am only left with four-five cases. Till today, Central Bureau of Investigation has not been able to prove any illegalities. Despite the Congress having the central government with them earlier, under former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and the Siddaramaiah government in the state, they couldn’t prove anything.

I was jailed because of our good reputation. The Congress couldn’t face us, so they put me in jail under false allegations and cases. They haven’t been able to prove anything despite keeping me in jail for 43 months.

Q. But former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde had indicted you in a report, which he titled the “Republic of Ballari”…

A. When you go through bad times, everything is bad. These false allegations have been portrayed very colourfully. The media, too, needed these allegations to sell their papers. This was unfortunate.

Seven years ago, they made false allegations, but we never committed any illegalities. We are all god-fearing people, who come from a very poor background. We never committed any crime... it was just my bad fate. But never did the people of Ballari district or Hyderabad-Karnataka region believe these false allegations. Today, people say this was a conspiracy of the Congress.

Q. Coming to the BJP’s list of candidates, four of your close aides, including your two brothers, have been given tickets. Is this your family’s comeback?

A. When B Sriramulu approached me with the idea of forming a breakaway party, I opposed it vehemently. I told him that we should face anything that comes our way. Unfortunately, when I was jailed he took the decision [to form the Badavara Shramikara Raithara (BSR) Congress. But my brothers and I never left the BJP, so there is no question of coming back.

Q. Speculation has been rife that Sriramulu is contesting from outside Ballari district for the first time in his career because you are living in Molkalmuru. Your view:

A. This is not true, it was the party’s decision. Sriramulu is a very popular leader of the Valmiki community (classified as a Scheduled Tribe). Out of the 15 reserved seats for the STs in the state, 13 are located in the neighbouring districts of Chitradurga, Ballari and Raichur. So, the party decided to field him here because it felt we would be able to win all these seats if he contested from Molkalmuru.

Q. You hail from the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, where Lingayats are a dominant force. What is your view of the separate religion status granted to them by the state government?

A. I would say 99% of the people oppose this because the Lingayats and Veerahsaivas are one and the same. We can’t digest such a decision. Siddaramaiah has clearly taken this decision to divide society.

Both communities are followers of Shiva, and [the 12th century philosopher] Basaveshwara has said we must not divide on the basis of caste and religion. But today, Siddaramaiah has taken this move to divide society by invoking Basavanna’s name. This will only result in the Congress’s total destruction.

First Published: Apr 26, 2018 17:38 IST