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A bumpy road to expressway as cheque bounces in K’taka

Wednesday, 14 June 2006 - 11:47pm IST

Kumaraswamy, under attack by BJP for attempts to stall a private expressway corridor, expressed doubts on continuing as CM.

BANGALORE: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, under attack by his coalition partner BJP for attempts to stall a private expressway corridor, expressed doubts on Tuesday on whether he would continue to be at the helm of affairs for long. His government, meanwhile, faced an embarrassing situation after a cheque issued by it bounced due to lack of funds.

"I am not sure whether I would continue to be the chief minister after 15 days," Kumaraswamy said, indicating serious differences between the coalition partners over the 111 km Bangalore-Mysore highway project being built by the Nandi infrastructure corridor enterprise (NICE) consortium.

The Janata Dal (secular) wants the government to take over the Rs 2850 crore-expressway project, which the BJP has opposed and the rift was evident in a late night cabinet meeting on Monday and a decision was deferred.

Kumaraswamy had staged a coup by unseating the Congress-JD (S) coalition and forming a new combine with the BJP early this year.

The JD(S) was to be at the helm for 20 months, followed by the BJP with an equal term.

Kumaraswamy and his father, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, have alleged that NICE was grabbing land of farmers, which the consortium has denied. NICE, in turn, has accused the government of putting hurdles for the project despite its clearance by the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court in April directed the state to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 as costs for advancing "frivolous arguments and malafide" by conducting the litigation against NICE.

NICE Managing Director Ashok Kheny warned that the company would seek legal recourse if the government continued to stall the project.

"Statements made by various persons in the government or having influence over the government virtually show wilful disobedience of the judgement of the courts," he said, and sought implementation of the court orders in "letter and spirit".

Kumaraswamy, who owns about 47.2 acres of land near the corridor where the townships are planned, asserts that he would not budge under any pressure and the intention of the government was to ensure that farmers are not deprived of their land.

The state paid the fine last month but the bank stating "insufficient funds" returned the cheque. The government played down the issue as a clerical and technical error on the part of the bank and assured that the payment would be made.

"It was a technical error by the bank and the bank has written a letter to NICE expressing regret," Kumaraswamy said.

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