Soon after news of Kheny's induction broke, JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda hinted at withdrawing his party’s support from the coalition it had formed with the Congress in the BBMP council.

Deve Gowda-Kheny rivalry puts possible Cong-JDS post-poll alliance in jeopardy
news Politics Monday, March 05, 2018 - 18:50

On Monday, businessman-turned politician Ashok Kheny, mired in several controversies, raised eyebrows once again after he was accepted by the Congress into its fold.

Kheny's long-standing rivalry with JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda has now put the possibility of a Congress-JD(S) post-election alliance in jeopardy.

Ever since HD Deve Gowda opposed the project construction being done by NICE company in 1999, the controversy had turned into a Lingayat versus Vokkaliga fight. The decades-long caste war between the two major communities in Karnataka had even led to Deve Gowda accusing Kheny of murdering a Lingayat man who had supported the Vokkaliga farmers in the NICE road land grabbing case.

Soon after news of Kheny's induction broke, JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda hinted at withdrawing his party’s support from the coalition it had formed with the Congress in the BBMP council. Deve Gowda said that a final decision will be taken on Wednesday. 

“Deve Gowda and Kheny are arch-rivals. With this, the possibility of an alliance is close to zero. However, the decision will be taken by Deve Gowda and JD(S) President HD Kumaraswamy,” a JD(S) source said.

Speaking to TNM, political analyst Sandeep Shastri said that the distancing between the Congress and the JD (S) will be more intense, as it is partly political and partly personal.

"This is because Siddaramaiah, who is leading the Congress, is a former JD(S) man. The hiatus is bound to increase with Kheny's introduction. Ashok Kheny has rubbed the leaders of BJP and JD(S) the wrong way in terms of the whole NICE episode. Congress taking him in is like cocking a snook at both BJP and the JD(S). This is in continuation of Congress's strategy to associate with people who have been associated with others despite their track record not being very great. The Congress is somewhat suggesting that voters tend to not be serious in terms of honesty and integrity or it is weighing political experience as being more important than its desire to maintain a particular image,” Shastri added.

In 1995, Kheny had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Karnataka government to construct express highways in the state. In 1996, Kheny incorporated NICE Ltd and signed an agreement with the government to construct the ring road surrounding Bengaluru. In April 1997, the project was approved and was expected to be completed in 10 years.

The details of the agreement had invited allegations that it was tilted in favour of NICE and that the government had given up its right of eminent domain (the power of the government to obtain individual property, forcibly if required, if the land is needed for public purposes) for the land under development. There were also allegations that government officials were hand in glove with NICE from the beginning.

Dismissing the allegations, Kheny had said that when the project was approved, he had received calls from several politicians including Deve Gowda to not construct the road on certain lands. “Everybody wants to shift the road. He called me up. He said, ‘Let go of this 1,100 acres of land, in place of this, I’ll give you 5,000 acres.’ I refused. And he (Deve Gowda) said, ‘I am going to punish you," Kheny had told the media.

The case had become so controversial that NICE Road project versus land losers has been reduced to a caste war between the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. Deve Gowda, in November 2011, had also alleged that Kheny had instigated a Lingayat farmer Siddalinga Prabhu's murder. Prabhu was one of the farmers who opposed land acquisition for the NICE Road project. Deve Gowda had claimed that Prabhu was killed for supporting the Vokkaligas.



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