Ahead of polls, Ashok Kheny joins Congress amid dissent in its ranks

Ahead of polls, Ashok Kheny joins Congress amid dissent in its ranks

'House panel found irregularities by Kheny's firm, yet Cong took him in'

Ahead of polls, Ashok Kheny joins Congress amid dissent in its ranks

Businessman and Bidar South MLA Ashok Kheny, whose company Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) faces serious charges of irregularities, formally joined the Congress on Monday, despite stiff opposition within the party.

Kheny was inducted by Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara and Energy Minister D K Shivakumar into the party even as a section of Congress legislators made their dissent public.

A joint legislature committee, in its 2016 report, found irregularities in the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project anchored by NICE. The BMIC has been mired in controversy and Kheny has been accused of using the project for real estate gains. The committee has recommended taking action against Kheny. Ironically, Law Minister T B Jayachandra headed the committee.

Shivakumar defended Kheny's joining the party. "It is Kheny who has joined the party and not the NICE company. He has joined the party only after everyone okayed it." Parameshwara said Kheny has joined the Congress without any conditions.

Kheny floated the Karnataka Makkala Paksha to contest the 2013 Assembly polls and won from Bidar South. His party will now be merged with the Congress. Speaking after his induction, Kheny hailed Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. "He's not a fly-by-night operator. He has provided good administration."

NICE has been accused of violating the framework agreement with the government while implementing the project. The agreement stipulated about 20,000 acres for the project, but 32,000 acres were notified for acquisition.

 

Congress MLA from Yeshwantpur 

S T Somashekar minced no words while expressing dissent on Kheny joining the party. "Several scams and irregularities have come to the notice of the joint legislature committee of which I'm a member. Given this background, it's wrong to bring a tainted person into the party's fold," he said.

 

Somashekhar said many other Congress MLAs are opposed to Kheny's induction. "We will brief the chief minister and Parameshwara on why we are against it. This affects the party's image," he said.

Local party leaders in Bidar staged a protest while Kheny was being welcomed at the Congress' headquarters here. Apparently, Jewargi MLA Ajay Singh, son of former chief minister the late N Dharam Singh, is upset with Kheny's induction. Ajay is eyeing the Bidar South constituency.

In New Delhi, JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda lambasted the Congress for taking Kheny into its fold.

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