Bidar South MLA and businessman Ashok Kheny today joined the ruling Congress ahead of the assembly elections in Karnataka, amidst opposition from within the party.
Kheny is the Managing Director of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise Limited (NICE), the implementing agency of the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC)project that is facing allegations of irregularities.
He joined the party in the presence of Karnataka Pradesh Congress President G Parameshwara and campaign Committee Chief D K Shivakumar, by merging his Karnataka Makkala Paksha with the Congress.
Kheny had also met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah before joining the party.
Welcoming Kheny, Parameshwara said he was joining Congress without any preconditions, and accepting it's principles.
"His joining Congress will help strengthen the party in Bidar district and thereby ensure the party's victory in all six assembly constituencies there," he said.
However, several Congress MLAs in Bengaluru and a section within Bidar Congress expressed opposition to Kheny's induction.
A group of party workers also staged a protest in Bidar, today.
Yeshwantpur MLA S T Somashekar said he is opposed to Kheny's induction, when the House committee report on the alleged irregularities in the BMIC project is still pending before the government for action.
"A few MLAs have also contacted me regarding this.
Wewill inform the Chief Minister and the KPPC president regarding the allegation against him and about the House Committee report that is pending before the government foraction," he said.
In its report tabled in the Assembly in December 2016,the 11-member committee,headed by Law Minister Jayachandra to look into the alleged violations, concluded that 16 of 22 articles in the framework agreement had been violated by the private partner NICE.
It had also recommended an inquiry by CBI, ED, the vigilance commission or an investigative agency of equal standing.
NICE is the implementing agency of the BMIC project, which includes developing the 111-km four-lane expressway, five townships and supporting infrastructure.
However, ruling out any differences within Congress over the issue, Shivakumar said all party leaders, specifically from Bidar district, had been consulted before induction.
To a question on NICE, he said "His business has nothing to do with the politics or the Congress....he may be director at NICE, but NICE has nothing to do with the politics."
Speaking to reporters, Kheny said he has joined Congress for the development of his constituency.
Claiming that most Congress leaders are with him and one or two may be opposing him because of "selfish reasons", he however, did not comment on the House committee report.
Meanwhile, opposition BJP and JDS hit out at Congress for inducting Kheny into the party with "hunger forpower."
Former Prime Minister and JDS supremo H D Deve Gowda said Congress was doing everything to win the elections, and raised questions on the future of the House committee report.
BJP leader Suresh Kumar said Congress would have to bear the "curse" of the common people and farmers who suffered because of illegalities in the BMIC project.
"Congress has shownits true colours," he said.