Karnataka Bharatiya Janata Party leaders particpated in an overnight protest on Friday against the sale of 3,667 acres of land to Jindal South West Steel in Sandur taluk of Ballari district at what they claimed to be throwaway prices.
The saffron party alleged that the land was being sold at only Rs 1 lakh per acre in exchange for which the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition was going to get kickbacks, NDTV reported. BJP leaders, who began a dharna on Friday, decided to sleep at the protest venue overnight.
“Our agitation pertains to three issues – sale of land to JSW Steel, IMA Jewels Ponzi scheme scam, and drought situation,” said BJP Karnataka unit chief BS Yeddyurappa, who also participated in the overnight protest.
“We have nothing against Jindal but this government’s decision to sell that land is not acceptable,” The New Indian Express quoted Yeddyurappa as saying. He also said that it was suspicious that the Karnataka government wanted to sell the land as soon as the Lok Sabha elections concluded.
On Friday, the Yeddyurappa, the leader of the opposition in Karnataka Assembly, had tweeted about the land deal. “Karnataka government’s fishy behavior to sell few thousands of acres of land to Jindal hints at a massive scam,” he wrote. “Is Congress trying to make up for all the losses in the Lok Sabha elections?”
Last month, the Karnataka government had approved the lease-cum-sale deed of nearly 3,700-acre land to JSW Steel in Ballari district. Besides BJP leaders, Congress leader HK Patil also wrote letters to the state government against the deal, PTI reported. Patil said the market value of the land is at least Rs 1 crore per acre.
However, the leaders of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have said that the government is implementing what it had committed to JSW Steel in 2005 since the company had met all the conditions of the agreement, including employment generation.
The Karnataka State Cabinet on Friday announced that a sub-committee would be set up to look into the land deal. “Although there is nothing illegal in the deal, the Cabinet has decided that the issue needs to be re-examined with an elaborate discussion through a sub-committee,” The Hindu quoted Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Krishna Byre Gowda as saying. “The chief minister will take a call on the constitution of the committee.”
Yeddyurappa said that the government had already decided to sell the land to the company and called the setting up of a sub-committee a ruse. “They have already made up their minds to sell the land to Jindal,” he said, according to The New Indian Express. “The Cabinet’s decision to refer the same to a sub-committee is just a tactic to buy them more time. We have no issues with continuing the lease but selling land worth Rs 3,000 crore at throwaway prices shouldn’t be allowed.”
BJP also criticised the state government for not keeping the promises to farmers on loan waivers. “Our main contention is that the farm loan waiver has been dumped in the cold storage,” NDTV quoted Yeddyurappa as saying. “They [Karnataka government] said they would waive loans of Rs 46,000 crore but so far not even Rs 3,000 crore loan has been waived. In some areas, the loan amount has been taken back.”
The Karnataka BJP on Saturday also called for a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the IMA jewellery fraud. “Now that deals b/w Congress Minister Zameer Ahmed and IMA fraud Mohammed Mansoor Khan is out in open we demand a CBI enquiry,” the saffron party’s Twitter handle posted. “Victims of IMA jewellery fraud will be denied justice if investigating is carried out under the watch of @hd_kumaraswamy government.”