"We, the Reddy Brothers of Bellary, have solemnly resolved to constitute Bengaluru Palace Grounds into an opulent, ostentatious, extravagant Republic of Bellary and to secure all its politician friends."
Disgraced mining tycoon and former Karnataka Tourism minister in the BJP government, Gali Janardhana Reddy could well have written this preamble to his daughter Brahmani's wedding in Bengaluru. This week, this once-upon-a-time-powerful-politician showed he is still not a political touch-me-not. With senior BJP leaders in attendance, Reddy mocked at those who dared to question his vulgar display of wealth. The high-profile political presence was like giving Reddy an ISO 9001 certification.
While the figure of Rs 500 crore spent on the wedding may be exaggerated, it is quite evident from the kind of over-the-top arrangements made that nothing short of Rs 150 crore would have been spent. The Vijayanagara empire has been recreated because Reddy believes he is King Krishnadevaraya reincarnated. So has been Bellary with its different streets to make the bride feel at home.
Replete with chariots and foreign dancers, helipads, 1,500 hotel rooms, 2,000 cabs and 3,000 bouncers, the big fat wedding that hosted some 50,000 VIP guests, is clearly injurious to the sensibility of India. Especially at a time when much of Bengaluru and India is in queues outside banks and ATMs, struggling to take out Rs 4,500 to make ends meet. And that's why the political presence reeks of hypocrisy. The fact that BS Yeddyurappa, the man who will be the next chief minister of Karnataka if BJP comes to power in 2018, chose to attend the event, showed the party does not believe in walking the talk. It is the same party that lauds its prime minister for his financial surgical strike on black money and in the same breath, embraces a man who allegedly minted black money, making mountains vanish in the process.
The BJP bhakts dub anyone who questions the merits of demonetisation or cribs about the inconvenience due to rationing of money as corrupt and anti-national. Ironically, it died when senior BJP leaders posed for photographs with Janardhana Reddy at the wedding. Did the party leadership think of the optics and the message it sent out when Yeddyurappa and Jagdish Shettar, two of its former chief ministers embraced the occasion?
It is all very well for BSY to say that there is a life beyond politics. That there is social etiquette involved. That Brahmani has literally grown up in front of his eyes and that he knows Reddy for more than two decades. But at a time when so many Indians are running from banks to ATMs trying to get their own money out to buy medicines for ailing parents or even to buy food, the BJP leadership's conduct is duplicity at its perverse worst. The timing was horribly wrong and even otherwise, to grace an obscene show of personal wealth, does not win the ruling party at the centre any marks.
Rewind to 2008. That is when Reddy bankrolled the attempt to ensure a majority for Yeddyurappa's minority sarkar. The Bellary brothers were the toast of Karnataka, virtually holding the BJP government to ransom. It was only in 2011 when Janardhana Reddy was arrested in the illegal mining case, the BJP showed him the door.
Will the wedding and the embrace with Reddy open the BJP's doors once again to the tainted mining baron? Next to impossible. In 2008, the BJP was vulnerable and Reddy took full advantage of the situation. The BJP is wiser from the experience. Now Reddy needs the BJP more than the party needs Reddy. Besides, he also has to extricate himself out of the legal tangle he is in.
But politics isn't played out only on the stage. Much of it happens behind closed doors. Reddy through his Man Friday, B Sriramulu still controls Bellary. And it's important to have Reddy on your right side if you have to win Bellary.
That's not all. The wedding was an occasion for Reddy to tell the political world — and that includes the non-BJP parties as well — that despite the investigating authorities tightening the screws on him, he is still a loaded man. His money show would have certainly sent the right political message. And anyone who knows Karnataka will tell you that it is a high-spending state during election time.
Not that the Congress behaved differently from the BJP. Its Karnataka home minister and PCC chief G Parameshwara led the ruling party brigade. Oblivious to that, Congress activists protested against the BJP leaders attending the Reddy bash. Classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
The political excuse for attending the Reddy bash is that he is not a convicted man. And that CBI charges cannot be the basis for making him a social pariah. What if he is acquitted tomorrow, is the counter-query.
After the wedding, the newly married couple and their families will fly to Bellary. Reddy will be happy to note that he is ready to take off again.