Why in the ‘Republic of Ballari’, Reddy Brothers Still Hold Sway

People here openly admit that they miss the prosperity they once witnessed during Reddy’s time.

5 min read
Why in the ‘Republic of Ballari’, Reddy Brothers Still Hold Sway
Hindi Female

The Quint DAILY

For impactful stories you just can’t miss

By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy

Red – the colour of the earth – coats everything it touches here. The green of the leaves, the flowers, the name boards of companies, even the eyelashes of people working outside.

Only when the dust settles can you see three women repairing the red mud road leading to Sandur mines in Ballari. Even though the temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius, shirts protect their polyester saris and scarves wrap their heads, leaving only small windows for their eyes.

  • The dust is the cost they have to pay for the job, say these workers. 

    The dust is the cost they have to pay for the job, say these workers. 

    (Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

  • Even the flowers are covered in the mud. 

    Even the flowers are covered in the mud. 

    (Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

  • Even the water tanks are red 

    Even the water tanks are red 

    (Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

A truck passes by and the red cloud of dust rises again, preventing them from seeing anything – even their own hands. “This dust is something we have learnt to live with,” says Radhamma. “Ever since the (illegal) mines shut down, there are not many jobs left. We are lucky to have one here,” she says.


Since the Supreme Court’s crackdown on illegal mining in Ballari, the number of jobs in the region has plummeted. Out of the 99 mines that were shut down, only 26 have been reopened.

One of the mines in Ballari. 
(Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

At the mines, the only jobs left to the locals are those of drivers, cleaners and security guards, as most other jobs are given on a contract basis. With a conveyer belt under construction to transport the iron ore, they fear their existing jobs too will be lost to automation.

Although the mines were illegal, many say that they were financially secure at the peak of the Reddy brothers’ reign. It is this sentiment that makes the duo a force to reckon with in the region.


Running Ballari From a Farmhouse

Around 50 kms away, near the border of Ballari and Chitradurga, lies Molakalmuru. It’s from here that former mining baron Janardhan Reddy is leading the BJP’s election campaign. An accused in the illegal mining ore scam, Janardhan is barred from entering the city – but at his newly-rented farmhouse, Ballari comes to him.

The farmhouse in Molakalmuru where Janardhan Reddy is currently staying.
(Photo: The Quint)

On a Sunday, Janardhan Reddy is busy holding a meeting with the villagers. His followers wait patiently, though some begin to yawn as the meeting has stretched well past midnight.

After the meeting, as he walks towards his house, Janardhan politely declines interviews...but eventually relents. “The party has asked me not to give any statement to the media. I have suffered for seven years and good things are coming my way now. I will talk to you after the election,” he says and walks away.

But when asked why he is campaigning for the BJP here, Reddy stops. “Molakalmuru is my second home and Sriramalu [incumbent MP] is important to me. I’m working hard to see him in a good position. He is busy campaigning in Badami and I am focussing on Molakalmuru,” he says.


Reminiscences of the Republic of Ballari

A metal board banning helicopter landing lies in the corner of Kumaraswamy temple. The 12th Century temple, a heritage site recognised by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), had suffered damage from the frequent helicopter landings.

The board at Kumaraswamy temple in Sandur. 
(Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

“During the peak of illegal mining here, everyone had a helicopter. The deity of the temple, located in the Sandur hills, is considered the patron of the region, and every mining baron used to come here and land their helicopter next to the temple. But now, there are no more helicopters,” says Eeranna, a local activist who was part of the movement against the mines.

Eeranna explaining the damage done to Kumaraswamy temple. 
(Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

The history of mining in the region goes back to the time of Tipu Sultan, who started mining for ore to produce weapons. Parts of the mines soon went to a Belgium company and then eventually to the British. After the British era, the control of the mines was given to the Sandur royal family. Later, they were leased out to private parties, eventually resulting in the mining boom, explains Eeranna.


Between Tainted Miners and Tainted Miners

Janardhan Reddy had shared a dais with the BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa. 
(Photo: The News Minute)

Voters have a limited choice of candidates in the region – all six major players contesting in this election are linked to the mining scam.

The BJP has fielded incumbent Sriramalu, the other half of the Reddy duo Somashekhara Reddy, and Sriramalu’s nephew TH Suresh Babu – all three have cases linked to illegal mining against them.

Congress, which has been attacking the BJP for the mining scam, has also inducted three candidates – Anil Lad, BS Anand Singh and B Nagendra – who have 1, 16 and 26 cases related to illegal mining pending against them, respectively. Even the JD(S) has fielded Mohammed Iqbal, who has two cases of illegal mining pending against him.

Eeranna says:

The easy money during the mining era and the past elections has corrupted the people here. Even if Lord Kumaraswamy (the local deity) contests from here, he will have to spend at least Rs 10 lakh if he doesn’t want to lose his deposit.

Despite being away from politics, locals believe that Janardhan Reddy and the ‘nostalgia’ of the republic of Ballari could still influence the outcome here. People here, who once enjoyed the comfort of easy money from illegal mining, openly admit that they miss the prosperity of Reddy’s time. This is what makes the Reddy brothers a formidable force in the region.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and india

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More