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As Janardhan Reddy faces probe, BJP keeps its distance

G Janardhana Reddy. (Source: PTI photo/File)

FORMER KARNATAKA BJP minister and mining baron G Janardhan Reddy — accused of taking Rs 20 crore from a finance firm involved in a cheating case to help the firm dodge an ED investigation — has found little support from the BJP, despite accusing the Congress-JDS government of foisting the case with a political motive.

Reddy was arrested on December 11 — he was released on bail on December 15 — while his associate, Mehfuz Ali Khan, who has admitted that he got about Rs 20 crore (Rs 2 crore cash and 57 kg gold), was taken into custody by the Crime Branch on Thursday.

Reddy has tried to politicise his arrest by accusing Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy of seeking revenge — he had levelled a Rs 150 crore mining bribery allegation against Kumaraswamy in 2006. But the former BJP minister has received little backing from within his own party.

“Kumaraswamy wanted to arrest me in 2006 when I made bribery allegations against him. He has acted like a cobra, which is said to retain its anger for 12 years,’’ Reddy said soon after he was released on bail last week. “Kumaraswamy must remember that he is a lottery chief minister, and his authority is not permanent. He has become chief minister by pure luck,’’ he said.

In response, Kumaraswamy said he would not “stoop to the level’’ of Reddy, and the police were merely doing their duty. “They themselves have submitted an affidavit in court admitting their guilt. They are ready to return Rs 18 crore to the investors but they cannot be forgiven for that,” Kumaraswamy said. “The investigators have been given a free hand. We won’t interfere and we won’t spare anyone,” he said.

Only BJP MLA from Bellary (rural) constituency, B Sreeramulu, has stood by Reddy. According to sources close to Reddy, the former BJP minister has expressed his anguish over the party leadership distancing itself from him during his period of crisis.

State BJP president B S Yeddyurappa, who met Reddy after he was released on bail, has only made a passing reference to the issue, terming the arrest as an example of “state interference in policing’’ and “misuse of power.’’

Once a favourite of the BJP national leadership, with top leaders making frequent visits to his Bellary residence between 2008-2012, Reddy fell from grace in 2012, after he was arrested by the CBI for allegedly running an illegal mining racket in Bellary — when the BJP was in power in Karnataka between 2008 and 2013.

Despite this, Reddy seemed set to make a political comeback during the Assembly elections earlier this year, with Yeddyurappa stating that the Reddys of Bellary were crucial to the party’s efforts to win the polls. “If they work for the BJP, it will be beneficial for the party. This was a view accepted by the party leadership,’’ he had said.

The BJP gave assembly tickets to the Reddy brothers and their associates — Reddy’s brothers Gali Karunakara Reddy and Gali Somasekhar Reddy, Sreeramulu, Lallesh Reddy, Suresh Babu, Sanna Fakirappa and Sai Kumar. Janardhan Reddy initially campaigned for two party candidates, but later withdrew on the directions of the BJP leadership. He and his associates were hoping to win as many as 15-20 seats in the May polls, but the group won only five seats for the BJP.

After the assembly polls threw up a hung verdict, with the BJP winning only 104 seats — nine seats short of a clear majority — Janardhan Reddy and Sreeramulu were linked to widespread efforts by the BJP to poach Congress (78) and JD(S) (37) MLAs.

The emergence of links between Janardhan Reddy and Ambident Marketing Pvt Ltd — a firm accused of duping hundreds of investors to the tune of Rs 600 crore — in the course of a probe into a cheating case, is expected to neutralise any new efforts by the Reddy camp to poach MLAs from the ruling JD(S)-Congress coalition.

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