By T S Sudhir
`Gali’ in Hindi means abuse. In Telugu, it means wind. To B S Yeddyurappa, Gali Janardhan Reddy and his two brothers have meant nothing less than an abusive Tsunami. These relatively new entrants in Karnataka’s political theatre have also shown that they can outdo Deve Gowda and sons in their antics. They can give them a run for their money.
Money is the language Janardhan Reddy knows only too well. Reddy is the chairman of Brahmani Steel Plant, that he established in Kadapa district of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, with an investment of 4500 crore rupees. When TDP leaders alleged that Reddy was shown undue favours by his Reddy friend in Andhra, the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, Janardhan Reddy posted this on his blog : “Mr Mysoora Reddy (of the TDP) alleged that I don’t have the financial resources and that my entire family’s net worth is only Rs 30 crores. But the net worth of myself and my wife is Rs 115 crores. I own a helicopter which I purchased for Rs 15 crores, a deluxe bus for Rs 4 crores and cars worth Rs 5 crores.”
It is this financial muscle that gave legislative muscle to Yeddyurappa’s government that fell short of the 113-number mark in the May 2008 elections. Bellary money reportedly facilitated the crossover of several JD(S) and Congress MLAs into saffron territory and helped the BJP reach the 117 mark in the Vidhana Soudha.
Yeddy was grateful to Reddy and they could have lived happily ever after. But it wasn’t to be. For the Reddys to be hailed as only the kings of Bellary, was galling. Their sights were set over controlling north Karnataka. Not surprising, considering they had bankrolled the election campaign of several BJP candidates in the region. But most of north Karnataka is an established BJP bastion so this was like showing Yeddy a red rag. “The Reddys will rise but the lotus will perish,” is what the Yeddy camp is understood to have told the BJP High command, warning them to rein in the Reddys.
Matters came to a head, when the skies opened up and floods ravaged both Karnataka and Andhra. The Reddy brothers in a bid to show their clout, announced that they would spend 500 crore rupees from their pocket to build 54000 homes for the flood-affected in north Karnataka. This in a way amounted to telling Yeddy to buzz off. They were upset with the CM’s decision to impose a levy, a flood relief cess of 1000 rupees on each truckload of iron ore. So the argument, if the Reddys had to pay on their trucks, they may as well spend directly from their pocket and get mileage for it.
Part of this belligerence also had to do with what was happening across the border in Andhra. With YSR no longer at the helm of affairs, the Rosaiah regime was subtly making life difficult for the Reddys’ Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) in the state’s Anantapur district. A wildlife officer issued notices to OMC, alleging illegal mining, illegal road construction and illegal transportation of ore from Karnataka to AP. Phone lines were worked and the government withdrew the notice but Gali Janardhan Reddy realised the wind was blowing in the opposite direction for him in Andhra now.
Now politically how does this add up. Gali Janardhan Reddy’s good friend is YSR’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, who is to Rosaiah what the Reddy brothers are to Yeddy. So despite being in two opposing camps, Rosaiah and Yeddy realised their political enemy was common. And from here, the fortunes of the Reddys in both Karnataka and Andhra were intertwined.
Yeddy decided to beard the lion in his own den and transferred officers close to the Reddys in Bellary district. The Reddys revolted and flew out their MLAs, some 40 of them, to a hotel in Hyderabad and a resort in Goa. The BJP High command tried several firefighters, but none worked. Finally, L K Advani demanded a truce as his 82nd birthday present on November 8. But the sight of a safari suit-clad Yeddy and the Reddy brothers in sweaters holding hands hardly brought any warmth into the chill that has set into the BJP in Karnataka.
Strangely, the coincidences between the Congress in Andhra and the BJP in Karnataka were just too many. On Saturday, Sonia Gandhi met both K Rosaiah and Jagan at 10 Janpath, with specific directions to both of them. Rosaiah was told he will stay and that he will need to be firm but carry everyone along. Jagan was told, he will be given a role soon, but he or his followers should not create problems for the 77-year-old CM.
24 hours later, action replay in the BJP. Yeddy and Reddy met the saffron high command where again, apparently under instructions from the RSS, the leadership stressed there will be no leadership change. Yeddy had to climb down, losing his trusted aide Shobha Karandlaje. Reddys would get their officers back in Bellary. A committee will act as the super chief minister.
What does the events of the last few weeks mean for both Andhra and Karnataka?
One, governance has taken a serious beating. At one time, these two states used to compete for virtually everything, both in the real and virtual space. Now two chief ministers operate, with their hands tied behind their back, working with cabinets where they are no longer the first among equals.
Two, dissidence is here to stay. Both governments still have a large part of their tenure left but will have to all the time face fully charged Ever-reddy battery of dissidents.
Three, it showed the political class in both states in very poor light. At a time, when they should be contributing their mite to flood relief operations, the MLAs of Karnataka were in the extremely plush environs of the Novotel Hotel near the Hyderabad airport, amusing themselves with morning walks and games. Ditto ministers in Andhra, who seemed more caught up with lobbying for Jagan to be made CM instead of attending to official work at the state Secretariat.
Four, comparisons being drawn between Shobha Karandlaje and Lakshmi Parvati. Like Chandrababu Naidu in 1995 who exaggerated Lakshmi Parvati’s clout in NTR’s court to woo TDP MLAs to his side, the Reddys used Shobha to hit at Yeddyurappa. And almost succeeded.
Both governments are operating with wafer-thin majorities. Even the slightest of tremors could trigger a political earthquake in either of the two states. Delhi will have to keep rescue teams ready at all times.
You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com
(Please post your comment to tell us what you thought of the blog. You can also subscribe to the blogsite to receive regular updates)