Siddaramaiah steals the show in Karnataka’s electoral theatre


By T S Sudhir
Score : Siddaramaiah 2.5, Yeddyurappa 0.5
If you wonder what I am talking about, it is real score card after the byelections to three seats in the Karnataka assembly. The results announced today saw the Congress winning two and the BJP one seat. But what was more significant is that not only did the Congress snatch Bellary Rural, one of the BJP citadels but also made BS Yeddyurappa miss a few heartbeats as his son B Y Raghavendra laboured to a 6430 votes facile victory. Hence the Karnataka CM’s score of 2.5.
What does the verdict mean for the BJP? For public consumption, unhappy faces. But given the fact that the BJP in Karnataka is a house divided, much like the Congress, how you read the result depends on which camp you belong to. In fact, there are quite a few happy faces, who see in the Bellary result a ray of hope. Because finally, the seat has been to an extent, been purged of the vice-like grip of the Reddy brothers – the power behind B Sriramulu, who had vacated the seat after he won the Bellary Lok Sabha seat in May 2014. So now the original BJP cadre can hope to make some inroads into Bellary. The fact that Obelesh, a trusted lieutenant of Sriramulu, lost from Bellary – that too by a margin of 33000 votes – showed the fear factor was not at play either.
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Yeddyurappa, the newly crowned national vice-president of the BJP, would have hoped for a better display in his new avatar. His son scraped through but compared to dad’s 24000 votes margin as a KJP candidate in May 2013, this was a poor consolation triumph. In fact, the view in Bangalore is that if the Congress camp had displayed better hunting skills in Shikaripura, it could have reduced Raghavendra to a prey. In the end, despite winning, Raghavendra was found complaining about how the official machinery had been misused by the Congress. And dad Yeddyurappa floated the familiar conspiracy theory of Congress-JD(S) matchfixing.
But it is not to say that BSY is a spent force. As the state’s foremost Lingayat leader, Yeddyurappa is the community and BJP’s tallest leader. He would need to introspect if his pocket borough of Shimoga is being eroded and whether his DNA does not enjoy the same kind of mass support that he does. He realises that many in his own party would be happy over the narrow margin of victory and the shrewd politician that he is, he would need to learn his lessons from the verdict.
The man who would gain in strength is Siddaramaiah, who can now be expected to be more assertive both vis-a-vis leaders within the Karnataka Congress and the High command. His detractors would have to press the mute button for some time at least now. A weak 24, Akbar Road works to the CM’s advantage and he can use it to ward off pressure tactics of a G Parameshwara, the KPCC president, who wants to be deputy CM, home minister and also control Bangalore. But now with a 2-1 verdict under his belt, Siddaramaiah will not allow any such three-in-one desires of Parameshwara to take root at the Vidhana Soudha.
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For long, Siddaramaiah has been pilloried as an outsider to the Congress, seen with suspicion, asked to prove his loyalty all the time. His latest assertion that he will attend a function with PM Modi, as per protocol, is indicative of the fact that he will be his own man. But at the same time, like what is expected of a good Congressman, he gave the credit for today’s victory to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi along with the party workers and the government programmes. He knows you do not need to pay tax for lip service.
More than anything, the Karnataka verdict proved three things. One, that the Lok Sabha victory (17/28 seats) was largely due to Narendra Modi. Which is why a wily Ananth Kumar reduced the Ananth Kumar vs Nandan Nilekani contest in Bangalore (South) to a Nilekani vs Modi battle.
Two, the voter is extremely smart and politically savvy. He seems to be fairly happy with the performance of the state government in its first year and wants good governance for the next four years. Three, the BJP has a lot of work to do in Karnataka if it wants to re-enter its gateway to south India in 2018.
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Reddy `Republic of muscle power’


By Uma Sudhir in Bellary

 

The Reddy brothers are said to be the kingpins in the mining mafia that operated in Bellary. Here’s a special report from the ground on how the Reddy brothers allegedly use muscle power to control illegal mining.

(video of the story)

It’s life as usual in Bellary


By Uma Sudhir in Bellary

 

A day after the Supreme Court ordered all mining in Bellary to stop for environmental reasons, an NDTV investigation finds that in this part of Karnataka, it’s business as usual. Trucks carry iron ore to steel plants; officials wave them through check-posts. A collaboration between government officials, politicians and mine-owners governs Bellary.

(Video of the story and the live link)

Bellary Reddys flout SC mining order


By Uma Sudhir

Despite the Supreme Court order on Friday that all mining of iron-ore should be suspended in Bellary, the Reddy brothers, in blatant violation of the apex court’s directions, seem to be carrying out their mining operations.

(Video of the story)

Karnataka’s can of political worms


By T S Sudhir

Like the soap operas on Sun TV, where once every few weeks, there is a flare-up, with the mother-in-law banishing the daughter-in-law (or vice versa), the curtains have gone up on yet another Act in the Karnataka nataka. The latest kahaani me twist, of course, is more “explosive”. For the salvo is not fired by the unofficial leader of the Opposition, Governor H R Bharadwaj, but the Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde.

The Lokayukta is reported to have named chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, former CM H D Kumaraswamy, the infamous Bellary brothers, two more ministers and a senior Congress leader. Staying true to the adage that the family that “eats” together, stays together, the CM’s son and son-in-law also have been named. For in a very Kalaignar TV style operation, 10 crore rupees were reportedly `donated’ by a mining company to a trust owned by the CM’s family. The report says the loss to the state’s exchequer from illegal mining is 1827 crore rupees in 14 months between April 2009 and May 2010. The soot from the Bellary mining scam has blackened the face of Karnataka.

But what’s new, you may ask. True, the report only puts in black and white what has been the talk on the street for quite many months now. That Karnataka politicians are out to Bangalore the state. That Karnataka has given the traditionally bad image states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh a run for their money. Munni badnaam huwi, Karnataka tere liye.

The BJP has reacted pathetically, saying there is nothing new in the report. Old Bellary in new Hegde. The party is more bothered about how the report got leaked and not about Hedge’s allegation that his phones have been tapped.

I hope the Congress, the BJP and Deve zzzzz Gowda’s Janata Dal don’t use the occasion to score brownie points. Iss Hamaam me sab nange and it is high time, the civil society of Karnataka says no to this crass nudity.

Now that Yeddyurappa’s Mauritius holiday has been ruined, he should come back and get out of his job. He has brought enough ignominy to himself, his chair, his party and the state. The BJP has shown to what level it can stoop to save its gateway to south India, by sending V Dhananjay Kumar to allegedly “intimidate” Justice Hege to ensure he does not mention Yeddy in the report. The party would do well to put its spokespersons on mute for a while and focus on cleaning up its home. Though with Yeddy and the Bellary wealth gone, BJP may well shut shop in Karnataka.

Deve Gowda and Sons have proved that they have the best interests of everyone in mind. Everyone in their family, I mean. I suspect Gowda will play the humble farmer card once again. Ignore him. It has been 14 years since he spoke of rising like a phoenix from the ashes. The ashes have turned cold.

And the Congress, waiting in the wings, too has got its `hand’ dirty in the till. Though I dread the cocky sneer that Manish Tewari will have on his face tonight. But with `Portugal’ S M Krishna as its tallest leader, it doesn’t have a hope in hell to occupy Vidhana Soudha. Siddharamaiah, the other aspirant, has too many crabs in the Congress to contend with, to emerge a winner.

Karnataka doesn’t deserve this. A bout of President’s rule, albeit under a non-partisan, apolitical, dynamic Governor will do the state a world of good. And Bharadwaj should be put on the next flight back to Delhi.

 

For the last many years, Karnataka’s politicians have ruled by hook or by crook. It is time to organise a get together for the crooks.

 

 

YSR 2003, Jagan 2010



By T S Sudhir

To me the drink looked far from yummy. “This is my breakfast. Would you like to have one too?” Jagan offered, indicating to the viscous, jaggery colour drink placed before him. I was meeting him at the house of a Congress leader in Palvancha town of Khammam district where he was having a stopover during his `Odarpu’ yatra.

“What is it?” I asked. “Don’t know,” he shrugged. The previous day had been really long and he had managed to hit the pillow only at 5:30 am to catch an hour or so of sleep. Circumstances sometimes force you to swallow an unpalatable, a bitter pill and Jagan knows he has a long way to go before he sleeps. So though visibly tired, he is ready for a new day.

Y S Jaganmohan Reddy is in the process of rebuilding his political career after the castles he built following dad YSR’s tragic death came crumbling down. The high-decibel campaign his supporters mounted for him in Hyderabad and Delhi, demanding that Jagan be crowned king, was seen as noise pollution by those whose ears it was meant for. Jagan’s image took a severe beating. He was seen more as the enfant terrible of Andhra politics.

So on April 9, seven months after YSR’s death, Jagan started on this six-day tour, to provide financial help to 642 families, that lost a near and dear one, reportedly unable to bear the trauma of YSR’s death. In the first leg, Jagan covered two districts of West Godavari and Khammam in six days, and each of these visits to some 80-odd homes were planned to the last detail. Jagan, unshaven with an unkempt mop of hair, would hug the family members, eat whatever was offered to him, even as freshly laminated and garlanded portraits of the deceased and YSR completed the picture. The picture of the son, very Kamalahasan’s `Thevar Magan’ like, promising to take care of those who `cared’ for his father.

”Our leader is still in our hearts. I am with you. I cherish your love and affection. You are all my family members,” was Jagan’s refrain at each one of these homes.

That morning, Jagan’s immediate concern was his hands. They were full of scratch marks, left by people wanting to reach out and touch him. I remembered Chiranjeevi’s first road tour in Srikakulam as a politician, when a small scratch on his hand became `breaking news’ on a couple of Telugu news channels. Jagan spent the next five minutes using antiseptic spray and put half a dozen band-aid strips to cover the fresh wounds.

Wounds have been many in the last few months. The biggest and most harsh of them, his dad’s tragic death on September 2, the trauma YSR’s loved ones were forced to live through for 24 hours, till his body was found deep inside Nallamalla forest. And then the campaign to make him CM went horribly wrong. Jagan’s immaturity as a politician came to the fore, when he could not read the Congress culture, where you have to proclaim not to be a contender to be a serious contender for the throne.

In that one month of September, Jagan realised what loss of power could do to people. Suddenly the industrialist son-turned-politician who everyone knew as the second most powerful man in YSR’s Andhra Pradesh, was reduced to a Congress dissident, who was thought responsible for all kinds of headaches for the 77-year-old Bhishmapitamah-like Konijeti Rosaiah.

So whether it was the Telangana turmoil, the attacks on Reliance retail outlets or the communal violence in Hyderabad, the needle of suspicion pointed to one man. “Y(e)S, it has to be Jagan in league with the Bellary brothers” went the whisper campaign. For a man who admitted to me in September that he is yet to make friends in the Congress in Delhi, it seemed he was left with only foes.

Jagan had been seeking permission for this yatra since October. Everytime it was refused, the leadership convinced it will create trouble for Rosaiah. Finally when the response was neither yes nor no, Jagan decided he will hit the road. His calculation, he had nothing to lose. After all, the number of his foes wouldn’t increase.

Having travelled a bit with YSR in the summer of 2003, when he walked 1400 km from Ranga Reddy to Srikakulam district, I could not but help notice the similarity. As the Khammam sun records 45 degrees plus, Jagan is aiming for his own place under the sun. He is no longer the rising sun that he was from 2004-09. Today his concern is to avoid being eclipsed.

So far, the yatra has not created too many ripples in Hyderabad. But the way each town Jagan visits, is being plastered with YSR and Jagan posters and cutouts, it looks like a matter of time. Once the Congress leadership realises that the reaching out has the not-so-hidden agenda of reopening his political account.

Supporters say Jagan is determined to fight it out. “He is in the same situation that YSR was in between 1989-1993 when he was a headache for the likes of PV and Kotla,” says one of them. “Does he feel victimised?” I ask. “How else is he supposed to feel,” comes the counter-question.

Jagan is keeping away from a formal interview. Can’t blame him. His every word, every pause, every comma could put a fullstop to his political career, especially with several Jagan-hating Congressmen and women who would love to read between his lines. That he is a binding factor within the Andhra Pradesh Congress is obvious. Because despite his pro-United Andhra Pradesh stance, Telangana leaders from the party, including ministers, are sharing screen space with him during the yatra.

I noticed Jagan was wearing the same white-and-blue stripes shirt that he was wearing when I spent a day with him in Pulivendula in Kadapa district exactly an year ago, when he was campaiging for both himself and his dad. I couldn’t help wondering how life had so dramatically changed in the last 365 days for this young cub. He, like all tigers, is not changing his `stripes’ but it surely will be quite a task for him to learn hunting in the Indian political landscape, without the Tiger of Kadapa to show the way.

You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com

 

 

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Ever-reddy


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

 

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