Reddy, who is an accused in an illegal mining case, had recently formed “Kalyana Rajya Pragati Paksha” (KRPP), snapping his two-decade-old association with the BJP.
KRPP is by and large concentrating in certain districts of Kalyana-Karnataka (earlier Hyderabad-Karnataka) region, especially in Ballari, Koppal, and Raichur.
The launch of KRPP, with only a few months left for Assembly elections Karnataka, likely in April-May, has sparked a debate in political circles about its possible electoral impact.
Re-entering Karnataka’s electoral politics from outside Ballari district, Reddy has also announced that he will contest the Assembly polls from Gangavathi in Koppal district.
The announcement of a new political outfit, is by and large seen as an attempt by Reddy to re-assert his political credentials.
Many political leaders and observers from Reddy’s political backyard of Ballari are of the opinion that he is handicapped by court imposed restriction on his entry to home district. Also, division within the family, no strong caste backing, and lack of support from a strong caste based leader like- his long time friend B Sriramulu from the Valmiki community (ST) are likely to hurt prospects of his party.
“He is also likely to be seen and projected as an outsider by opponents in the run up to polls, as the Reddy community is Telugu speaking with a larger base in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh,” a leader said.
However, some caution about Reddy being a “champion in the art of influencing” for his gains, pointing out that he had displayed it successfully, during “Operation Kamala” to lure opposition MLAs to BJP, aimed at it gaining majority in 2008.
“One cannot forget that he has money power, and can try to break the opponent party locally, in which case the danger is more for BJP, and may benefit Congress and JD(S) to an extent possible in certain pockets,” another leader in Ballari said, adding that the impact could be marginal or limited in nature.
Reddy had been inactive politically for nearly 12 years now, since the time he was arrested by the CBI for his alleged role in the mining scam.
Ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls the J P Nadda-led party had disassociated itself from him, with the then BJP national President Amit Shah stating that “BJP has nothing to do with Janardhana Reddy.”
Reddy has been upset with the way the BJP had been “treating and ignoring him”, for a few years now, a party functionary said, adding, KRPP party may have some impact on the BJP in certain constituencies, especially in the Ballari belt, by cutting into its votes.
Accused in a multi-crore illegal mining case, Reddy has been out on bail since 2015 and several conditions were imposed by the apex court in its order, including prohibiting him from visiting Ballari in Karnataka and Ananthpur and Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh.
This is the reason why Reddy decided to contest from Gangavathi, the constituency that lies on the border of Ballari district and is about 60 kilometres away from Ballari city.
Aimed at keeping his hold in his home district, Reddy has recently announced that his wife Aruna Lakshmi will contest the upcoming assembly polls from Ballari city assembly segment.
Reddy’s elder brothers, G Karunakara Reddy and G Somashekar Reddy are BJP MLAs from Harapanahalli and Ballari city assembly segments, respectively, and his close friend Sriramulu is also a BJP MLA from Molakalmuru in Chitradurga district and a Minister. They have made it clear that they are with the BJP and have nothing to do with the new party.
If BJP again fields Somashekar Reddy from Ballari city assembly segment, it will be an electoral fight between members of the family.
Expressing displeasure about Janardhana Reddy’s decision to field his wife from Ballari city, Somashekar Reddy recalled the “sacrifices” he had made for the sake of his younger brother that included even going to jail for 63 days.
“He (Janardhana Reddy) has not taken into account what all I did for him, my sister-in-law (Aruna) too had earlier told me once that she was indebted to me, even their daughter had said same thing… but today they are contesting against me, let them, as far as I know God and people know the work I have done and they will bless me, and I will win with huge margin,” he said.
There were reports that Reddy’s relationship with his other brother Karunakara Reddy and friend Sriramulu had turned sour and they are no longer in talking terms.
Reddy’s daughter Brahmini too has announced her entry into the political arena
Some political observers and those who were close to Reddy earlier, are of the opinion that the KRPP may be financially sound, but will face a challenge of finding winnable candidates in several constituencies in which the party wants to contest .
“Finding winnable candidates will be tough for Reddy. With his own brothers and close friend Sriramulu not coming along with him, his supporters who are now with BJP would not want to take the risk of joining him at this stage,” a leader from Ballari said on the grounds of anonymity.
However, KRPP finding some takers cannot be ruled out, after announcement of tickets, as those denied tickets by other parties may find a new platform in this outfit.
“…if such jumping of ships happens in favour of KRPP for the sake of tickets, it may have some minor impact especially on the BJP, but it won’t be too big,” he added.
Reddy and his brother-in-law B V Srinivas Reddy, managing director of Obalapuram Mining Company (OMC), were arrested by CBI on September 5, 2011, from Bellary and sent to jail in Hyderabad.
The company is accused of changing mining lease boundary markings and indulging in illegal mining in the Ballari Reserve Forest area, spread over Ballari in Karnataka and the Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh.
Reddy first came to political limelight during 1999 Lok Sabha elections, when he campaigned for the late Sushma Swaraj, who contested against Sonia Gandhi from Ballari and lost.
With a flourishing mining business and money power, he grew his clout in the BJP during the 2004 elections, which gave a hung verdict. However, Reddy ensured his close aid Sriramulu was made a Minister in the JD(S)-BJP coalition government formed in 2006. While he himself went on to become a MLC.
In the 2008 assembly elections, when the BJP fell short of a majority by a few seats, he was among those who played a key role in “Operation Kamala”- by ensuring defection of other party MLAs and their re-election on saffron party ticket- which helped BJP form a government on its own in Karnataka for the first time, under the leadership of party strong man B S Yediyurappa.
Reddy, who went on to become Minister in Yediyurappa cabinet, tried to have control over the affairs of the government and other departments, did not get along with certain loyalists to the Chief Minister like Shobha Karandlaje, and slowly emerged as a rebel, even threatening the stability of the government a couple of times.
Controversies started to surround him and his activities especially in Ballari district and nearby areas, where he allegedly ran the affairs and administration with a strong grip, leading to the coining of the term “Republic of Ballari” by Congress and his opponents.
In 2011, a Lokayukta report on the illegal mining activities in Ballari district held Reddy responsible for defrauding the government, which eventually led to his arrest and then to jail.
The BJP later slowly started distancing itself from Reddy, as he had become a “liability for the party”, according to political observers.
Shah as BJP president ahead of 2018 assembly polls, finally made it categorically clear that Janardhana Reddy is not part of the BJP.