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Karnataka polls: Bellary goes to mining barons

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Author(s): M Suchitra
Date:May 8, 2013

Winners Anil Lad of Congress and Anand Singh of BJP are mine owners. Reddy brothers' associate Sriramulu also wins

INTERACTIVE MAP Red flags indicate assembly segments in and around Bellary from where candidates with links to contentious mining operations won on Wednesday. Click on the flags to read more.

Bellary district, Karnataka's iron ore mining capital, has gone into the hands of the Indian National Congress. When the results of the elections to the fourteenth Legislative Assembly, held on May 5, were announced on Wednesday, there was jubilation in the Congress camp—the party had bagged four out of the nine legislative seats in the district. The district had been a stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the past one decade. In the 2008 election, BJP had bagged eight seats. But this time the party had to be contended with just one seat.

But whether it’s BJP or Congress, there appears to be no escape for Bellary from the influential mining lobby. Those who won the elections include Anil Lad, Congress Rajya Sabha member, and Anand Singh, who was the minister in charge of Bellary in the outgoing BJP government. Both of them are mining barons. Mining leases held by Lad’s VSL Mining Company and Singh’s S B Minerals are among the 51 leases the Supreme Court cancelled on April 18 The two leaseholders were found to have engaged in flagrant violation of the Forest Conservation Act and other illegalities.

Break-up of seats
Total seats in Bellary: 9
Congress 4
BJP 1
BSR Congress 2
Janata dal (S) 1
Independent 1
 

Prominent winners

Anil Lad of Congress, a mining baron, has won from Bellary City constituency
Margin: 18,200 votes
Declared assets: Rs 288 crore. His firm, V S L Mining Company, holds mining lease which is among the 51 leases cancelled by the Supreme Court on April 18. It falls in Category C mines which were found to have engaged in gross violation of Forest Conservation Act.

Anand Singh of BJP won the Hospet (Vilayanagar) seat
Margin: 30,637 votes
Was the tourism minister and minister in charge of Bellary in the outgoing BJP government. His mining company S B Minerals holds lease that falls in category C mines cancelled by the Supreme Court S B Minerals had been indicted in the Lokayukta report

B Sriramulu of B S R Congress won Bellary rural constituency
Margin: 33,294 votes
He was Gali Janardhan Reddy's close associate and business partner. He was a minister in Yeddyurappa cabinet.

 

Apart from these two, B Sriramulu and T H Suresh Babu (BSR Congress), close associates of Gali Janardhan Reddy, mining don and former Karnataka minister, have won from Bellary. Gali is behind bars and is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigations.

BJP’ s dismal performance in Bellary is not unexpected. In Bellary, BJP was identified with Janardhan Reddy and Sriramulu and they had floated a new party, B S R Congress, in protest against the BJP high command not siding with Reddy when he landed in trouble after the 2011 Lokayukta report on illegal mining and the Supreme Court’s order to investigate illegal mining. The court's order was given on a public interest petition filed by the Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, a Dharwad-based non-profit.

How Lad had his way
The Congress high command’s initial choice for Bellary City was Anjanappa, one of the local leaders. Former member of Parliament K C Kondaiah, former Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Allum Veerabhadrappa and former minister M Diwakar Babu were among the 10 or so prominent leaders who were aspiring for Congress ticket from Bellary City. But Anil Lad was adamant that he should be given the ticket. He even threatened to rebel against the party and field his own candidates from all the seats in Bellary district, if he were to be denied ticket from the constituency.

The Congress high command gave in to Lad’s threats. The decision had upset almost all the local Congress leaders in Bellary. They did not want Lad to contest because his mine falls in Category C leases which were cancelled by the Supreme Court for violating green laws.

Bellary came into national prominence politically when in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections Sonia Gandhi defeated BJP’s top leader Sushma Swaraj in this constituency. Though Sushma Swaraj lost the election, the party gained under Janardhan Reddy and Sriramulu, both hailing from Bellary. Reddy had amassed huge wealth through illegal mining and he was the political mastermind while Sriramulu was a mass leader.

From 2008 to 2011, the state’s governance was in the grip of the Reddy brothers and Sriramulu. Janardhan was the tourism minister and minister in charge of Bellary, his eldest brother Karunakara Reddy was revenue minister, his second brother Somasekhara Reddy was chairperson of the state Milk Development Corporation and Sriramulu was the health minister. The Reddy brothers and their close aide virtually ruled the state when B S Yeddyrappa was the chief minister.

But after the Lokayukta report, Yeddyurappa had to quit office and the Reddy brothers were dropped from the new ministry.

Interestingly, Karunakara Reddy opted to continue in BJP while the other two brothers and Sriramulu floated a new party. But Karunakara Reddy who contested from Harappanahalli in Davangare lost the election. Somasekhara Reddy preferred not to contest in the elections.

 

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