The Rs. 250 crore wedding? Janardhana Reddy and his Money ki baat

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Even as the average Bengalurean ran from pillar to post on Thursday for exchanging notes and small change, former minister G Janardhana Reddy was busy recreating the Vijayanagara empire at Bangalore Palace for his daughter’s wedding; spread over five days, it will set him back by `500 crore (conservative estimate). Feeling small already?

Bengaluru’s biggest and fattest wedding in the recent times is just around the corner, seemingly untouched by the old and new currency note dilemma. Nevertheless, running on an unconfirmed budget of about Rs500 crore, the mega wedding of Gali Janardhana Reddy’s daughter on Wednesday, would have surely used plenty of the old and new notes.

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While the common man is wondering when and how to get those redundant notes exchanged, Bangalore Palace, the venue of the wedding, is being transformed into the ‘Golden Age’ of Krishnadevaraya, the 16th Century emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Rumour has it that Reddy believes himself to be the reincarnation of Krishnadevaraya. In his heyday, before his arrest in the illegal iron-ore mining scandal in 2011, he did live the life of a king — donating a Rs 40-crore crown to the Tirupati temple, getting himself a 15-kg golden throne, travelling in his Bell helicopter, and surrounding himself with dozens of gun-wielding security men.

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That lifestyle took a hit with his arrest and subsequent stay in the jail for nearly four years. But the setback doesn’t seem to have diminished his love for all things ostentatious.

For the wedding of his daughter, Brahmani Reddy, on November 16, the politician is pulling all stops, including recreating the 16th Century city of Vijayanagara at the venue.

The over-the-top invitation card itself had drawn much speculation and criticism, a week ago. The wedding cards came gold-plated, with an LED display of a one-minute, choreographed, Bollywood-style song-dance video involving Reddy and his family. It invited contempt from other politicians with Karnataka’s health and family welfare minister KR Ramesh Kumar saying, “no self-respecting person would attend the wedding”.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, himself under the scanner recently for receiving costly gifts, said he could not “just throw away” a wedding invitation.

There are rumours, however, that the wedding has been scaled down following the demonetisation of the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. But on the ground, nothing seems to have slowed down.

At the wedding venue, at least a dozen different sets of the kind you see in big-budget films are being constructed at the grounds. Rumour has it that Bollywood art directors Sujeet Sawant and Sriram Iyengar have been roped in to create the sets. The main set-piece is a recreation of a Vijayanagara-style palace.

The work on the sets is underway around Bangalore Palace, and tries to outdo the palace itself. But there is a strict no-entry rule at the venue for now. Around 30 security men are always on the prowl, ready to throw out anyone who tries to take photos of these sets. None of those working on the wedding sets seem to be from Bengaluru as no one there seems to know Kannada. Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Prabhudeva and Tamannaah are said to be on the list of performers who will entertain the guests at the wedding.

The wedding is all set to erase recent attempts by politicians to prop up their children. Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s big-budget film for his son Nikhil, ‘Jaguar’, that released recently, pales in comparison to the Reddy family’s wedding.

Though born in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, Reddy has lived most of his life in Ballari district of Karnataka, the same district that is home to the ancient city of Vijayanagara. As the then minister of tourism in 2009, Reddy had splurged to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Krishnadevaraya.

Reddy’s bail by the Supreme Court, granted in early 2015, has been relaxed, allowing him to visit Ballari between November 1 and November 21.

50,000 people attended a wedding in Bengaluru hosted by politician and mining tycoon G Janardhana Reddy. Not invited, but present nevertheless, were some tax officers who, according to sources, were discreetly appraising the lavish arrangements.

Which were not for those whose taste may run towards understated.

There was the huge venue – spread over several acres – in the heart of Bengaluru. Within that, there were sets designed by Bollywood art directors, allowing attendees to wander from a replica of a famous temple in Hampi to a bustling market packed with arts and crafts. Or for those heavily invested in the Reddy family history, homes of the bride and groom and their parents could be toured.

Helium balloons with the Reddys’ faces soared above the venue. On the ground, there were troupes of dancers from countries including Brazil. They had to move smoothly to get around the 3,000 bouncers and security guards.

The reported cost – 30 crores according to relatives who spoke on the condition of anonymity – has impelled public outrage at a time when so many are struggling to find the cash to buy food following the government’s shock move to pull high-value notes out of circulation in a bid to tackle tax evasion.

However, senior politicians and a few ministers like Home Minister G Parameshwara and Energy minister DK Shivkumar attended the wedding. So did the BJP’s top leader in the state, BS Yeddyurappa, in whose government Mr Reddy served as minister.

Mr Reddy, 49, spent three years in jail for his alleged involvement in a mining scam before he was released on bail last year. Speaking to journalists last week, he refused to reveal how much he was spending on the celebrations, but said everything would be declared to the tax authorities.

A tip off to the scale of the event was the wedding invite, which was sent on LCD screens.

Family members said that most bills were paid by cheque before last week’s move of demonetization was announced.

But income tax officials dropped in anyway. “We are interested in quantifying the expenditure in such a big event,” said one, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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