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Cong padyatra reaches Reddys’ bastion
BJP to reply with big rally in Bellary on Aug 20
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, August 10
Ever since the high-voltage electoral contest between Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in Bellary in 1999, the political climate in this Karnataka town, famous for its iron ore mines, has seldom remained quiet.

The dusty mining town today once again occupied the political centrestage, albeit with a reduced stature since the fight this time round is essentially of state level.

After walking more than 300 km in 16 days, Congress leaders, who are on a padayatra since July 25 demanding CBI probe into the thriving illegal mining in the state, marched into Bellary and held a huge rally.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in charge of party affairs in Karnataka, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, Minister of State for Railways Muniyappa, KPCC chief RV Deshpande and Leader of Opposition in Karnataka Assembly Siddharamaiah were among those who addressed the gathering.

Mining barons from Bellary and BJP ministers in Karnataka, Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy, two brothers, who are the main targets of the Congress, went outstation to avoid being blamed for any trouble that could have erupted on the occasion of the rally in their backyard. Fortunately, the event passed off peacefully.

Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, too, is in Delhi where he is slated to meet the President Pratibha Patil to request her to give assent to the proposed Karnataka legislation enacting stringent provisions against cattle slaughter.

Yeddyurappa’s absence from the state is believed to be a calculated move to avoid being drawn into any immediate debate about the Congress rally on illegal mining.

Interestingly, Sushma Swaraj, who despite her defeat to Sonia Gandhi in 1999 has continued to maintain a live link with Bellary through the close rapport she shares with the Reddy brothers. She is expected to address party cadres here on August 20. The rally is being touted as the saffron party’s reply to the Congress show of strength.





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