Mining moguls cross swords on dusty Ballari battlefield

Two controversial mining barons have crossed swords in the hot and dusty Bellary City segment.

Anil H Lad (Congress) and G Somashekara Reddy (BJP) have a number of criminal cases again them, each surpassing another.

While Lad has 11 cases, including one filed by the CBI for being involved in illegal export of iron ore from Belekeri port near Karwar, Reddy has six cases, including one filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Andhra Pradesh charging him for trying to bribe a judge to secure bail for his brother G Janardhan Reddy.

Lad, who is the sitting MLA, is a veritable ‘mine’ of information, reeling out statistics pertaining to the constituency which he has at his fingertips.

The majority community in the constituency, with a total electorate of 2.28 lakh, are the SCs with a population of 47,000 followed by STs (Valmiki): 35,000, Minorities: 40,000, Balajigas: 22,000; Lingayats: 20,000; Kammas, Reddy and Shettys: 10,000 each. There are also Marwadis, Savitha Samaj, Marathas and other micro-minorities.

There are 60,000 voters between the age group of 18-28 years followed by 50,000 in the age group of 40-50 years and 40,000 in the 28-40 years category.

In 2013, Lad defeated S Murali Krishna of B Sriramulu’s BSR Congress by a margin of 19,000 votes. Lad is of the opinion that the entry of B Nagendra, who belongs to the Valmiki community, to the Congress has resulted in the consolidation of ST votes across Ballari district.

Nagendra contested and won as an independent candidate in 2013 from Kudligi (ST) constituency and is at present contesting from Bellary Rural (ST). Lad claims that he now has the support of STs, SCs, minorities and Balajigas (Murali Krishna who belongs to the community has agreed to back him) — an unbeatable combination.

On the flip side, there are anti-incumbency factors working against Lad while the grassroots level opinion is that he is inaccessible and unavailable in the constituency.

Dig deeper and the locals give another dimension and narrative to the entire electoral scene here. Five years back, there was perceptible anger against the Reddy brothers for their muscle power and domination of the district. This angst and Sriramulu’s floating of his own party led Somashekara Reddy (2008 winner) to stay away from the polls in 2013. The BJP fielded its district president G Virupaksha Gowda, who fared a poor third.

But the scene has shifted now. The anger against the Reddy brothers has subsided, and Sriramulu, arguably the most dominant Valmiki leader, is back in the party fold.

Somashekara has been trying to gain the confidence of the voters for the last five years by being accessible all the time. Lad, on his part, has put in place a micro-management strategy for the polls which goes right down to the booth level.

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Mining moguls cross swords on dusty Ballari battlefield

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