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KJ George, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah's shadow, can be the Achilles heel of Congress

KJ George, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah's shadow, can be the Achilles heel of Congress

Off late the Karnataka Home Minister KJ George has been in the news only for the wrong reasons.

Bengaluru: Off late the Karnataka Home Minister KJ George has been in the news only for the wrong reasons. He is a super rich politician. He owns huge land bank and some of the best high end real estate across Bengaluru. He has leased out most of his huge buildings to Multi National Companies (MNCs) and Software giants. George lives in a palatial penthouse just opposite the Leela Palace hotel on old airport road. His Pent house is a part of Embassy Golf Links (EGL), an IT Park housing who is who of the IT world.

It has a five star Hilton hotel, a golf course, a helipad and all other top end luxuries available in the Western World. George's pent house can put even a seven star hotel to shame in its grandeur and facilities. But, George had managed to stay away from the limelight and controversies for a long time.

Now the public perception about him seems to have changed after he took charge as Home Minister of Karnataka. The mysterious death of an honest, young IAS officer D K Ravi has turned the spotlights on him. Some opposition members are indirectly attacking him for the death saying that DK Ravi was probing a big real estate company in which George allegedly has a big stake.

Kelachandra Joseph George or K J George has come a long way. Contrary to popular belief that he was born with a sliver spoon, George hails from a modest background in Kerala. According to a General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) who once closely worked with him, George was an ordinary man in the 1970s and 1980s. He says that George has always been very clever and knows which side of the bread is butter. He started off as a youth Congress worker and went on to head its Karnataka unit. He fortunes changed when the then Chief Minister of Karnataka S Bangarappa made George his Urban Development minister in the early 1990s. At that time, there was no real estate boom or IT boom in Bengaluru. But George allegedly acquired large tracts of land in and around Bengaluru for a song and when the IT boom started in mid-1990s, he made a killing and joined super rich men's club overnight.

In the 1999 Assembly election, George lost Assembly ticket to another fellow Keralite and retired chief secretary to Karnataka government J Alexander. Alexander was Tourism minister in S M Krishna government for sometime. The man with a lot of patience, George waited for his chance and pushed Alexander aside and captured his old seat once again. In the meantime, he established an excellent rapport with the fellow Keralites who enjoy enormous clout in New Delhi, particularly in Congress and in the Gandhi family.

Till the Congress returned to power in 2013 Assembly election, George was not a front ranking leader of the party in Karnataka. He was considered a Bangalore city politician with no ambitions outside of it. In a surprising move, Siddaramaiah made George his Home Minister. That decision shocked many Congress leaders.

They allege that George got that coveted ministry due to his 'close connections' in New Delhi. Within a few months, he consolidated his position and became one of the closest friends of Siddaramaiah. These days, it is very difficult see Siddaramaiah alone. George follows him like a shadow everywhere. Some Karnataka Congress leaders allege that George has now become Siddaramaiah's point person for everything.

On a positive note, George is a very accessible person and his voters say that he is always with the people in the hours of need. He is also very friendly with the media and answers almost everybody's call with lot of warmth.

However, George is not new to controversies. His son's appointment as a member of the Karnataka Wildlife Board led to a furore in Karnataka, last year. A self proclaimed wildlife enthusiast Rana George has not been known for simplicity or humility like his father. He is also accused of meddling with the functioning of Bengaluru City Police.

According to a report in 'Bangalore Mirror', the Defence authorities in Bengaluru have served a show cause and eviction notice on Embassy Golf Links (EGL), an IT Park housing the who's who of the tech world and Hilton Residences, accusing them of encroaching upon around 26,336 square feet land worth around Rs 26.33 crore. The EGL is a joint venture between the Embassy Group, a real estate major in the city, and Kelachandra Group, headed by home minister KJ George.

Staunchly refuting the Defence Ministry's charge, the Embassy Group says while the ministry claims they have encroached upon 26,000 sq ft, it is the ministry which is using 1.4 lakh square feet of their land. Eyebrows are also being raised over the defence ministry's delayed reaction. Sources close to George say the notice smacks of a smear campaign since the IT Park came up in 2002. However, a source in the ministry retaliated by stating, "For the last 10 years, UPA, to which George belongs, ruled the country."

The controversy was triggered off on October 13 when Brigadier SS Tinaikar, estate officer, army station headquarters, Karnataka and Kerala sub area, sent a notice to EGL and two others. The EGL started in 2002 and it still has several ongoing projects. Embassy Golf Links Business Park is built on 65 acres with a built-up area of 6.8 million square feet overlooking the KGA's golf course.

Besides IT majors including ANZ, Fidelity, IBM, Leviton, Mcafee, Microsoft, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sasken Networks Engineering, Yahoo software development, Vodafone Essar South and Indegene, it also houses Hilton Residences. The star hotel was inaugurated by none other than Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, claims 'Bangalore Mirror'.

George claims that all the allegations against him are politically motivated and baseless. He dares his opponents to prove the charges against him.

Whatever may be the truth, it is true that George is now on a slippery slope. Even the high command and Siddaramaiah can't protect him, unless he comes out clean on all his business dealings and affiliations. He has powerful enemies within the state Congress and they want to see his back.

George can be Congress government's Achilles heels in Karnataka, if he continues to flaunt his New Delhi connections and ignores ground realities.

first published:March 18, 2015, 13:31 IST