Senior Congress leader attacks Karnataka Government over JSW land deal

Politics

New Delhi: The opposition to Karnataka cabinet’s decision on sale of 3,667 acres of land to JSW Steel intensified Wednesday with senior Congress MLA and former minister H K Patil coming out publicly against the deal and faulting party colleague and Industries Minister K J George.

Patil, who has earlier written to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy against parting with the land in Ballari district, accused George of ‘hiding facts’ about ‘dues’ owed by the company to state-owned Mysore Minerals Limited (MML).

He claimed JSW owed Rs 2,000 crore, including interest, to the MML and this was ‘ignored’ while making the leased land freehold in favour of the lessee.

“This makes the government’s decision to benefit the company seemed suspicious,” he said in a letter to George, a copy of which he shared on Twitter.

Patil’s latest missive comes days after George at a press conference maintained that JSW Steel did not have any dues.

The state unit of the BJP too has attacked the government on the issue, alleging that the decision to allot the land at a “cheaper” rate to JSW was taken by the coalition in a “hurry” to “fill” their coffers and out of fear that they might lose power in the state.

The cabinet on May 27 decided to make freehold of 3,667 acres of land, given to the steel major’s plant in Vijayanagar in Ballari district in 2005-06 on lease-cum-sale, at a cost of Rs 1.5 lakh per acre.

As per the agreement the lease had to be converted to sale after ten years, Rural Development Minister Krishna Byre Gowda had said.

“You being the member of cabinet while reacting to my (earlier) letter (to CM) tried to mislead people by giving falseinformation on outstanding dues,” Patil said in the letter to George.

He also cited excerpts of a CAG report to substantiate his claim about JSW’s dues.

The Congress MLA said the government’s decision should be transparent when it pertained to giving away public property, insisting that the pros and cons as well as the profit and loss to the exchequer must be taken into consideration.

Patil said such decisions should be legitimate and all documents should be scrutinised before taking a final call.

On May 30, George had said the government was not hiding anything and the JSW did not have any dues.

Both JSW Steel and MML were fighting a legal battle in the court over royalty payments, he had said adding if the court orders JSW’s property worth Rs 50,000 crore would be attached.

The steel companyhas claimed the charges were false and misleading.

“The said land was leased to JSW Steel for expansion of its steel plant capacity at Vijayanagar and the lease hold land shall become a free hold land as per the terms of original lease on expiry of specific period of lease.

“Theinformation that is being spread is false and misleading,” a spokesperson of JSW Steel had said in a statement.

Opposing the cabinet decision, BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa had alleged the sale ofland at a ‘throwaway price’ was an example of “open loot” by thecoalition government.

“You all know well. It’s not a small issue. The governmentgave 3,667 acres of land at a throwaway price.

After losing 25 Lok Sabha constituencies,this government has indulged in daylight robbery. We condemnit,” he had said recently.

The land was having high quality iron ore and its price was bout Rs 15 crore to 20 crore per acre, he had said.

State BJP general secretary C T Ravi has alleged the decision was driven by fear of collapse of the JDS-Congress ministry.

He had claimed the previous Congress government had deferred a decision on this matter as several cabinet members, including H K Patil, had opposed it.

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