Bangluru: Former Karnataka Minister and mining baron G Janardhana Reddy on Sunday announced a new party named “Kalyana Rajya Pragati Paksha”, four months ahead of Assembly polls in the State.
With this, the leader, who is an accused in an illegal mining case, has cut his two-decade-old association with the BJP.
Re-entering Karnataka’s electoral politics from outside his home district of Ballari, he also announced that he will contest the 2023 Assembly polls from Gangavathi in Koppal district.
There are talks in the political circles that this move may have some impact on the BJP in the Ballari belt, as the party too reacted cautiously on the development, with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai stating that he will discuss with the leadership on the development, when he goes to New Delhi on Monday.
“Despite BJP leaders saying that I’m not the member of the party and have no relationship with it, the State and its people believed that I’m from that party, that belief has turned out to be false. Today I’m announcing Kalyana Rajya Pragati Paksha, with my own thinking, and with the thinking of Basavanna (12th century social reformer)- which is against divisive politics in the name of religion and caste,” Reddy said.
Speaking to reporters, he said in the days to come he will travel across the State to organise the party and share his thoughts with the people.
“I have never failed in any of my new initiatives so far in my life. From the days of playing marbles in my childhood, I’m someone who never accepted defeat. So at the time when I’m going before the people with Kalyana Rajya Pragati Paksha, I’m confident about getting their blessings and there is no doubt about Karnataka becoming a Kalyana Rajya (welfare state) in the future,” he added.
Reddy had been by and large inactive politically for nearly 12 years now, other than for a brief stint ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls when he campaigned for his close friend and now Minister B Sriramulu in Molakalmuru Assembly segment, since the time he was arrested by the CBI for his alleged role in the mining scam.
Ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls, the then BJP national president Amit Shah responding to a reporter’s question had distanced the party from him saying that “the BJP has nothing to do with Janardhana Reddy.” Further noting that he will contest the next Assembly elections, Reddy who is not allowed in his home district Ballari said, “I have made a house in Gangavathi and have enrolled in the electoral list there, and will contest from there.” Accused in a multi-crore illegal mining case, he 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.
He had sought permission to visit Ballari to meet his daughter who recently gave birth to a girl, which was allowed by the SC.
Reddy’s wife Aruna Lakshmi had recently performed “gruha pravesha pooja” (housewarming ceremony) at their new home in Gangavathi, the constituency lies on the border of Ballari district and is 62 km away from Ballari city.
Indicating his wife’s political entry, in response to a question, he said, “my wife will work along with me in organising the party and also in public life.” He also said he will tour across the State and come out with a manifesto and a plan regarding where the new party will contest the next Assembly polls “In 10-15 days I will announce the party flag, symbol, also come out with plans regarding manifesto and probably with some candidates,” he added.
Reddy has been upset with the way the BJP has been treating, by ignoring him, for a few years now, a party functionary said, adding him floating a new party may have some impact on the saffron party in certain constituencies, especially in the Ballari belt, by reducing its vote-share.
Reddy had played an instrumental role in strengthening the BJP in the Ballari district, and is still said to enjoy a considerable clout there and adjoining districts.
His elder brother Karunakara Reddy is BJP MLA from Harapanahalli Assembly constituency, while younger brother Somashekar Reddy represents the Ballari rural segment from the party, and Sriramulu is an MLA from Molakalmuru in Chitradurga district and Tribal Welfare Minister.
In response to a question, Reddy said he will not misuse his friendship to force Sriramulu, who is a Minister in the current BJP government, to join the new party, and the same is the case with his brothers.
Recently, there have been reports about strains in Reddy and Sriramulu friendship, which has been rejected by both.
Reddy recalled the names of BJP’s leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, and also B S Yediyurappa calling him “fatherly figure”, as he bid goodbye to the saffron party.
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 brought to 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 the political limelight during 1999 Lok Sabha elections, when he campaigned for the late Sushma Swaraj, who had contested against Sonia Gandhi from Ballari.
“I’m confident of coming out clean from all cases against me. I was not involved in any illegal mining, I did legal mining. I was imprisoned (during the UPA government tenure) for supporting Sushma Swaraj,” he said.
Asked how confident he is, when both Yediyurappa and Sriramulu, who tried to build regional parties- KJP and BSR Congress- have failed, he merely said, “Sriramulu’s BSR Congress failed in my absence, I was in jail then.” Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, not wanting to comment on the new party, said, “no regional party has been successful in Karnataka.” While, senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister Jagish Shettar said, “let’s see what will be its impact. I will discuss it with our party leaders…” Calling “best friend” Reddy, a “clever and experienced” politician, Sriramulu reacting to the development said, “He (Reddy) had been a strength to the BJP and similarly the party had been a strength to him. He is someone who makes a decision after a lot of thinking, so don’t want to debate or do analysis on his decision.” “As a disciplined soldier, I will continue to work for the BJP and Minister in the Bommai’s Cabinet,” he said, this development will have no impact on the party, which is a national party built by workers.
“I have a bonding of friendship with him (Reddy) which is beyond politics, this might be his decision politically after a lot of thinking. I had stood as a rock behind him during negotiations between him and the party, and now that he had decided to announce a new party, I will do my politics as per my party’s ideology…it is over now, to convince him anymore,” he added.
On his part, the State Congress president D K Shivakumar congratulated Reddy on the new party. “Let him serve the people and the State, we have no objection if someone wants to serve the people.” JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy said a new party by Reddy was expected, “let’s see what will be the developments in the future.”