The indomitable Bellary brothers continue to be a pillar of strength as well as the sharpest thorn in Karnataka BJP’s side. Towards the weekend, the BJP leadership was in a tizzy over who made Janardhan Reddy a minister in the state cabinet.
It is no secret that the Reddy brothers have Sushma Swaraj’s backing. But their clout in the Bellary region makes them a force to reckon with. A large number of MLAs, enough for the chief minister to sleep fitfully, owe their allegiance to the brothers.
A few weeks ago I had met with Janardhan Reddy at the Oriental Suite of the Taj Mansingh hotel in Delhi where he was staying. Wearing a blue and white striped shirt loosely over black trousers and exquisite leather shoes, Reddy did not look like the stereotypical politician or businessman from Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. You expect businessmen-politicians from those states to wear an all-white ensemble with only assorted gold jewellery breaking the monotony. Reddy did not visibly have a spot of gold on him until his assistant produced a business card of his. It looked solid… and golden.
Perhaps the new PR agency he has contracted to spruce up his image had something to do with it. "I hired them to counter the unfair and untruthful propaganda of our detractors," Reddy said.
But gold had to be there somewhere. So when I read about news reports this morning that Reddy offers his morning prayers to solid gold idols with flowers on a gold plates and water in gold urns sitting on a seat made of gold, I was not surprised. Somewhere deep into the conversation about the many controversies surrounding him, his family, his friends, his mines, his politics and his enormous wealth, I asked him, "Is it true that you donated a crown worth Rs 45 crore to Tirupati Balaji?’’ I had read news reports about that.
Reddy was almost bashful when he replied: "This is all done by the media. They exaggerate a lot. The crown was not worth Rs 45 crore. It cost just Rs 27 crore!"