This Article is From Nov 15, 2011

Who is Janardhana Reddy?

Bangalore: He is the middle brother of the three Reddys - the billionaire barons whose influence and clout in Karnataka's Bellary is legend. It is Gali Janardhana Reddy's enterprise and ambition that is said to have propelled the trio, and their constant aide Sriramulu, to dizzying heights of wealth and power. 

There are whispers that the family spent Rs 20 crore on a wedding - back-of-the-book calculations would suggest as much; helicopters flew in thousands of guests for the opulently mounted event. Even when propitiating the Gods, the Reddys have worn their wealth on their sleeve. They donated a diamond-crusted crown in pure gold, estimated to cost Rs 45 crore, to Lord Balaji at Tirupati.  

The Reddys were not born to this world of helicopters, big imported luxury cars, mansions, gun-toting securitymen. They worked towards it - bit by hard, focused, opportunistic bit. Their father was a police constable, Chenga Reddy, and they began life out of a two-room police quarter. G Janardhana Reddy, born in January 1967, stands out in this story.

He did not attend formal college - though his older brothers are graduates. Janardhana Reddy's official bio-data as an MLC lists his educational qualification as SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) or Class X. His real education came on the streets where he started his journey of making money as a chit fund agent.     

Right through, say those who have known him, he dreamed big. Entreprenurship came naturally and soon when he started Ennoble India Savings and Investments India and even a news daily Ennama Kannada Nadu. This was the 1990s and Janaradhna Reddy was in his 20s.

The 1990s were important years. Again steered by Janardhana Reddy, the brothers began to explore politics - with the same open mind that they brought to their business ventures. They first tested the waters with the Congress, through the loyal Sriramulu, almost the fourth brother. Sriramulu became a local Congressman, but when he did not get a party ticket for the 1999 Karnataka Assembly elections, the Reddys looked BJP-wards.

Happily for them, opportunity flew home in the shape of senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj as she famously contested Lok Sabha elections against Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Ms Swaraj was hailed as a political brave - not only because she was taking on a Gandhi, but also because Bellary was a traditional Congress stronghold.

The Reddys worked tirelessly for Swaraj, who was expected to lose and did. But she had made her point and so had the brothers. Ms Swaraj blessed them with attention and benevolence at the national level of the party and is said to remain close to them.  

Politically, the Reddys had their work cut out. They worked from the ground up to build the party in Bellary and added a significant number of Assembly seats in the BJP kitty. Bellary was soon no more a Congress stronghold. Since then they have constantly flexed muscle, using it to both bail the party out and bring the government to the brink at different times.  

The BJP at all levels acknowledges the role played by the Reddys in building the party cadre in the only southern state it rules.

As they helped build the BJP in Karnataka, across the border, in Andhra Pradesh, the Reddys were cosy with Congressmen. In particular, YSR Reddy. Janardhana Reddy partnered YSR's son Y.S. Jaganamohan Reddy in setting up Brahmani Steels in YSR's home town Kadapa.

The year 2001 was the turning point for the Reddys. That year, Janardhana Reddy, then 34 years old, set up the Obulapuram Mining Company with an initial capital of Rs 10 lakh. In 2002 he became a director. By 2003-2004, OMC had taken over several mining leases directly or indirectly and had reported a turnover of Rs 35 crore. In just five years, by March 2009, the turnover was Rs 3,000 crore. No doubt, say detractors, his close proximity to the state's Chief Minister YSR helped.

The Reddys had arrived. They had enormous political influence in two key states and their clout ensured that they virtually ruled the iron-ore-rich Bellary, where mining billionaires proliferate.  
 
Trouble began for the brothers after YSR died in a helicopter crash in September 2009. A central empowered committee of the Supreme Court reported gross violations - there were allegations of alteration of state borders, mining far beyond areas they were allowed to mine in, showing much less mined ore than they actually mined - and said a mining lease to OMC extended from 2004 till 2017 by the YSR government was illegal. The committee suggested that mining be suspended till pillars were erected and boundary posts laid on the state border.

The Congress government of K Rosaiah in Andhra Pradesh suspended mining by OMC and sought a CBI probe, which began in end 2009. The Reddy brothers went to court and got a stay, but that stay was vacated in December, 2010. The CBI investigations into the allegations against OMC led to large scale raids on Janardhana Reddy's premises on Monday and his arrest.

Across the border, former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde's report on illegal mining has accused OMC of illegal mining in Karnataka too.

Is the Reddy story unraveling faster than they spun the family web?