Exit BJP's Reddy brothers, enter Cong's own miner
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There is a striking resemblance between the entourage that surrounds the Congress candidate for the Bellary City assembly constituency, Anil Lad, 39, a mining businessman, and the one that used to surround the former mining lord of this iron ore-rich district, G Janardhana Reddy, one of the "Reddy brothers" and now incarcerated by the CBI on charges of running a mining mafia.
There are the gunmen. There are the sports utility vehicles. And there are a bunch of young men who could pass off as bouncers at a pub.
With the Reddy brothers out of the BJP and Bellary due to the CBI cases, Lad is seen as the new mining baron in Bellary. The decision to choose him to contest from Bellary City, despite a hint of his involvement in illegal mining in a Lokayukta report, is causing the Congress a headache with days to go for the May 5 polls. Lad has complained that local Congress leaders are not supporting him.
Peeved at the selection, one Congress faction feels that Lad, who is worth Rs 288 crore as per his affidavit, must personally seek their support. Another says it cannot support Lad because of the campaign the Congress had taken up against illegal mining, leading to Reddy's arrest.
National leaders of the Congress have not ventured to campaign for candidates in the region that once elected party president Sonia Gandhi to Parliament. Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to hold a rally in Bellary last week but instead chose a rally in Raichur district to introduce Lad to the public.
With over Rs 1 lakh crore of corporate investments riding on the region in the form of mining, steel and sponge iron industries, Bellary is seen widely as crucial to the economic growth of Karnataka, which gives its politics an air of importance other regions cannot match.