Bellary going to polls bereft of mining clout

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Bellary: With the fall of the high and mighty mining barons, this iron rich district, infamously known as the “Republic of Bellary”, is going to the Lok Sabha polls bereft of the overbearing mining clout. Money and muscle power had come out in all its ugly manifestations in the earlier elections, which now do not appear to be overtly visible.

Bellary was the scene of the famous electoral battle between Sonia Gandhi, on her electoral debut, and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in 1999. Gandhi won that round with over 50,000 vote margin, but after that, the BJP wrested the seat. 

Last year, B Sriramulu, who returned recently to BJP, leaving behind his outfit BSR Congress formed after quitting the saffron party two years ago, takes on a retired chief justice, Congress’ N Y Hanumanthappa. The scenario is, however, different for Sriramulu who is contesting without the blessing of his former mentor, Swaraj, who publicly opposed his entry into BJP.


Sriramulu is still unabashed about considering Swaraj his “mother” and says, “I am where I am because of Sushma Swaraj’s blessings. And with her blessings, I will win this time.”

Apparently dictated by electoral arithmetic, BJP overruled its own senior leader to open the door to Sriramulu, whose sister Shanta now represents Bellary.

Sriramulu, who enjoys considerable clout with the Valmiki community, was once a trusted aide of Janardhana Reddy, one of the Reddy triumvirates, apart from Karunakara Reddy and G Somashekara Reddy, who had ruled the roost, mostly attributed to the BJP’s strong emergence in the district.

Now Janardhana Reddy is cooling his heels in a jail in Hyderabad since September 2011 in connection with an illegal mining case in Andhra Pradesh. The decline of the mining clout is clearly visible in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, with over 50 mining leases placed under ‘category C’ for indulging in rampant illegal mining activities cancelled as per Supreme Court directions. Three MLAs from the district are in jail on charges of illegal mining and transport of iron ore through Belekeri port.

At the peak of their influence, the Reddy troika –two of whom were ministers during the BJP rule were often accused of running the government. Their clout vaporized later.

The mining mafias’ stranglehold in general and blatant flouting of rules had prompted the then Lokayukta Santosh Hegde to refer to Bellary district as “the Republic of



“The battle is now chiefly between the ruling Congress in the state and BJP. JDS whose base began to ebb after 2008, has fielded Ravikumar Naik, an outsider. Aam Aadmi Party has also fielded its candidate Shivakumar Malagi. Questions are also raised whether Bellary’s Sriramulu has hurt BJP’s anti-graft plank with its rivals making it a big issue even at the national level.

Environmental degradation is major fallout of unmitigated illegal mining in Bellary district, also hit badly by lack of proper infrastructure facilities. As many as 14.50 lakh voters -7.32 lakh men and 7.18 lakh women would be exercising their franchise. In 2008, BJP made a clean sweep of Bellary district, winning seven of the nine seats in a region where the Congress had traditionally maintained an unbroken hold.

The 2013 Assembly polls saw the Congress bagging four seats, leaving the BJP with only one. Bellary became a reserved seat for scheduled tribes after delimitation in 2008. Congress has won 14 of 16 elections till 2004 when BJP broke its uninterrupted spell.

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