Bengaluru: The Congress in Karnataka seems to be after candidates who can win them a seat or two. The latest to join the state’s ruling party is Ashok Kheny, a highly controversial businessman.
Kheny owns the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), which has built a ring road around Bengaluru city. He is an independent MLA from Bidar South assembly seat in Hyderabad–Karnataka region.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has welcomed Kheny to the Congress despite opposition from many party leaders. Ironically, the Siddaramaiah government had constituted a joint legislative committee to probe allegations of irregularities against Kheny’s company and had even recommended serious criminal action against him just a year ago.
Congress leaders from in and around Bengaluru had even demanded jail term for Kheny for allegedly grabbing precious farm lands for his road project. He is also accused of diverting land for private illegal townships along the NICE road, which circles southern and western parts of the city. The NICE “scam” is pegged at over Rs 1 lakh crore.
According to sources in the Chief Minister’s Office, Kheny is likely to get Lingayat and Kuruba votes in Bidar for the party. While Kheny is from the Lingayat community and was once close to BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa, Siddaramaiah is a Kuruba by caste.
The late Dharam Singh’s family has already opposed his inclusion into the party calling it a shocking development. The former CM’s son-in-law and a Congress ticket aspirant from Kheny’s constituency, Chandra Singh, told News18 that he will go to party high command “seeking justice”.
“Kheny is corrupt. He has no backing in the seat. He won because of his money power in 2013. We are shocked. I have already started the campaign and now they have taken him.”
The induction offers the BJP and JD(S) yet another opportunity to target the Congress on issues of corruption. A BJP leader alleged that the Congress has inducted Kheny “for his bottomless resources”.
The Congress had faced similar criticism a month ago during party president Rahul Gandhi’s tour of Hyderabad–Karnataka region when it inducted two BJP MLAs close to mining baron Janardhana Reddy.