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Reddys' rise: Riding cycles to rattling BJP leadership

Tuesday May 31, 2011 11:06:44 PM, V.S. Karnic, IANS

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Bangalore: From struggling businessmen who could once afford only bicycles to now owning choppers and almost bringing down Karnataka's chief minister, the Reddy brothers have had a meteoric rise in both riches and political clout.

And the three brothers continue to cast a large, dark shadow over both Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national leadership.

Their alleged illegal iron ore mining and exports are a cause for frequent disruptions in the legislature of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, where their father was once a police constable.

The Reddys' wealth - there is no clear estimate of it - comes from the billions they raked in from exporting iron ore after they entered the business in 2002 by floating the Obulapuram Mining Co (OMC). Obulapuram is in Andhra Pradhesh though OMC's main office is in Bellary, the iron-ore rich district in Karnataka, about 300 km from Bangalore.

OMC is mainly owned by G. Janardhana Reddy, the tourism minister and the most vocal of the three bothers. The elder, G. Karunakara, is revenue minister while the younger G. Somashekara is an assembly member from Bellary.

Janardhana Reddy has also floated Brahmani Industries Ltd to build south India's biggest steel plant at Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh.

Kadapa is the stronghold of late Andhra chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and his family, with whom the Reddy brothers allegedly have business relations.

The timing of the brothers' entry into the mining and export business was perfect as demand for steel hit the roof worldwide, fuelled mainly by China building facilities for the Olympics.

Politically too their timing was unmatchable. They, perhaps, have to thank the Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi for it.

Contesting the Lok Sabha polls for the first time, Sonia Gandhi chose Bellary as a safe seat as she and her party were not sure of her victory in the Gandhi family stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh then.

The BJP fielded its firebrand leader Sushma Swaraj to take on Gandhi in Bellary and the Reddys worked for her. Since then they always refer to her as their 'thayi' (mother) and proudly declare "we can never say no to our thayi".

Gandhi won both seats and retained Amethi, giving one more opening for the Reddy brothers and the BJP to turn the Congress fortress into a BJP bastion.

Sushma Swaraj claimed recently that she had no hand in making the Reddy brothers ministers and that other senior leaders such as Arun Jaitley and M. Venkaiah Naidu were looking after Karnataka affairs.

The Reddys' clout in the BJP, particularly in Karnataka, clearly comes from the billions of rupees at their disposal.

They were instrumental in mustering a majority for the party to form its first government in the state and southern India in May 2008. The BJP won only 110 seats in the 225-member assembly.

The Reddys won over five Independents to support the party, giving it 115 votes in the house. All the five independents were also rewarded with cabinet posts.

The Reddys are also believed to have bankrolled the party's "Operation Lotus" -- making Congress and Janata Dal-Secular legislators to quit their seats and contest as BJP nominees in the by-elections. This helped the BJP to gain a majority on its own - 119 members.

They rebelled against Yeddyurappa in 2009 as he did not give them a free hand to choose the officials to be posted in Bellary and in their ministries.

They refused to budge even after pleadings from Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and others.

While their 'thayi' Sushma Swaraj papered over the differences, Yeddyurappa had to pay a heavy price -- dropping his close associate and lone woman minister Shobha Karandlage from the government and shunting out trusted officials from his secretariat.

The Reddys do not shy away from showing off their wealth. They own latest SUVs and choppers.

Janardhana Reddy is said to own a gold chair worth more than Rs. 20 million.

In June 2009 he presented a diamond-studded crown to adorn Lord Venkateswara at Tirupati. The crown is estimated to cost Rs. 45 crore (Rs. 450 million).

The Reddys have been taken to the courts over alleged illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly they don't own any mine in Karnataka but are accused of large-scale illegal mining in the state.

Following a petition by an NGO, the Supreme Court has ordered a survey of the mineral-rich areas on both sides of the border of the two states to determine the extent of illegal mining. The Reddys have been charged with erasing boundary marks between the two states to camouflage their illegal activity.

Janardhana Reddy has strongly denied any illegal activity and says: "Wait for the court verdict. We will be proved right."

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at




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