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Out on bail, Bellary Reddy canvasses for BJP

Gali Janardhana Reddy

Bangalore: Scam accused former Karnataka minister Gali Janardhana Reddy has become a star BJP campaigner despite party president Amit Shah recently declaring the BJP had nothing to do with him any more.

Out on bail after more than three years in jail custody on charges of illegal mining and export of iron ore, the flamboyant Reddy is seeking votes for close associate B. Sriramulu, BJP candidate from Molakalmuru in Chitradurga.

At a rally in Molakalmuru on Saturday, Reddy shared the stage with Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the BJP's chief ministerial candidate in Karnataka, B.S. Yeddyurappa.

The BJP has also fielded Reddy's brothers Somashekara and Karunakara in the May 12 Assembly polls.

When Reddy was first spotted at a BJP campaign in Chitradurga last week, the party's Karnataka minder, Muralidhar Rao, had said that anyone was free to work for the party.

"The question of the BJP assigning him any role does not arise as he's not even a member," party spokesperson S. Prakash told The Telegraph on Monday.

Told that Reddy was seen campaigning for Sriramulu and sharing a stage with Yeddyurappa, Prakash said the former minister had done it of his own accord.

"We cannot stop him if he wants to campaign for someone. But we did not seek his help or ask him to work for us."

According to the state lokayukta, the mining scam had cost the exchequer Rs 16,085 crore between 2006 and 2010. The report had also indicted then chief minister Yeddyurappa, Sriramulu, Somashekara and Karunakara.

None of them was arrested in the case or figure in the chargesheet, although Yeddyurappa spent about three weeks in custody in connection with a related land scandal.

State Congress working president Dinesh Gundu Rao castigated Shah in a tweet: "Serial offender @AmitShah #Jumla exposed. He had recently said Janardhan Reddy has nothing to do with the BJP."

State Congress vice-president B.L. Shankar said: "Their national president took a stand that has been falsified on the ground, with Reddy going around campaigning just as a party member would."

He added: "This only shows the hypocrisy of that party, which talks against corruption. They should at least have the courage to openly say that Reddy is their member."

Sons of a police constable, the Reddy brothers had shot to limelight in 1999 when they rallied behind Sushma Swaraj, who was contesting against Sonia Gandhi in the by-election to the Bellary Lok Sabha seat.

Sushma called them her "sons" as the Reddy brothers pulled out the stops in the keenly fought election, which Sonia won.

After the mining scam blew up in the face of the then BJP government, Sushma ignored an invite to attend the annual Varalakshmi Puja at the Reddy home where she had been the chief guest for years.

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