THE RESORT near Bengaluru, where 42 MLAs from Gujarat have been stashed away by the Congress to prevent them from shifting loyalties to the BJP ahead of the Rajya Sabha poll next week, is facing a demand to pay Rs 982 crore as penalty to regularise 77 acres of land encroached by it. The demand was made just two days before the MLAs checked in — by the Congress’s own government in Karnataka. On July 27, following a Cabinet meeting, Karnataka Law Minister T B Jayachandra said, “The state cabinet has decided to ask Eagleton resort to either pay the penalty or surrender the land to the government. The decision was taken on the basis of directions by the Supreme Court. The land has been valued at market rates.’’
The decision taken by the Congress government on the basis of a Supreme Court order is a change of stance, since the previous BJP government had decided in 2012 to hand over the 77 acres to the resort for a regularisation fee of Rs 82.69 crore. The latest Cabinet decision seeks to enforce an order by the state’s revenue authorities who had demanded the payment to regularise the encroached land.
The Eagleton Golf Resort, which has been tagged as one of the earliest world-class golf resorts in the country, was started by Andhra Pradesh businessmen Meda Ashok Kumar in 2000. After his death in 2013, it is being run by his two sons Meda Kiran Kumar and Meda Chethan. The family also has a golf resort in Mysore called Eagleburg Golf Resort. The Eagleton resort, which began with 100 per cent tax exemptions under a tourism policy, became a popular destination for top executives of Indian and foreign companies living in Bengaluru. It has also hosted a ladies European tour and an Asian junior event.
Over the years, however, it has become a destination for outings by a variety of groups, including IT employees and senior citizens — it is also a popular haunt of local politicians from the Bengaluru rural region. This is also not the first time that the resort has been used to “protect” MLAs.
In 2006-07, the then JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy, in whose Ramanagara district the resort falls, had tucked away some of his party’s MLAs at the resort, following a move by a group to align with the BJP after breaking away from a Congress-JD(S) coalition. In recent times, Congress Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, the MLA from the Kanakapura region and whose constituency lies adjacent to Ramanagara, has wielded strong clout at the resort and has used its premises for entertaining his supporters.
The Gujarat MLAs are guests of Shivakumar, his brother D K Suresh who is a Congress MP from the Bengaluru Rural constituency, and their associate, S Ravi, a local MLC. On Sunday, speaking to reporters at the resort, Shivakumar said, “These (Gujarat) MLAs have come from the land of Mahatma Gandhi and the land of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. We are privileged to host them here.”