Updated: July 7, 2022 2:17:06 pm
On Tuesday, as visuals of the Karnataka Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) raid on the properties of Congress MLA Zameer Ahmed Khan came in, many were struck by the opulence of his three-storeyed house in Bengaluru’s Cantonment area – complete with tall columns, arches and chandeliers.
Among Karnataka’s richest MLAs – according to the affidavit he filed ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections, Zameer declared assets worth about Rs 40.34 crore – the four-time legislator’s family runs National Travels, a transport business that runs a fleet of inter-state services.
On Tuesday, ACB officials carried out raids at Zameer’s home near the Cantonment Railway station, his flat at Silver Oak Apartments, a guesthouse at Sadashivanagar, and the office of National Travels in the city’s Kalasipalya area. ACB officials on Tuesday said the raids were carried out in a disproportionate assets case that was registered based on the report of the Enforcement Directorate which had raided Zameer’s residence last August.
Zameer’s supporters in the party and his family, however, questioned the timing of the raids and alleged that the BJP government was trying to divert attention from two high-profile arrests – a day before the raids on Zameer, senior IPS officer ADGP Amrit Paul was arrested in the Police sub-inspector recruitment scam while IAS officer J Manjunath were arrested in a corruption case. The arrests of the senior government officers had left the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government red-faced.
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Zameer started his career in the JD(S) and was among those who left the party with Siddaramaiah to join the Congress. His first electoral outing was in 2005, when, on a JD(S) ticket, he contested the Chamrajpet seat that’s a traditional Congress stronghold. But with Congress leader SM Krishna vacating the seat after he was named Governor, the JD(S) sensed its chance and fielded Zameer, who defeated the Congress’s R V Devaraj – a win that established him as a prominent Muslim leader in Karnataka.
A close aide of JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy then, Zameer was appointed Haj and Wakf Board Minister during the JD(S)-BJP coalition government. In 2007, with the government teetering on the brink of collapse as Kumaraswamy refused to step down and all three major parties of the state were securing their MLAs, Zameer took the legislators to a resort in Goa – and drove the bus, too. Though the JD(S)-BJP government collapsed, Zameer stayed by Kumaraswamy’s side.
However, their relationship soured as Zameer, along with five other JD(S) MLAs, officially joined the Congress ahead of the 2018 state elections. In the faction-ridden party where loyalties are split between the Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar factions, Zameer has identified himself with the former. He had even declared that he would vacate his Chamarajpet seat if Siddaramaiah wants to contest from the constituency in the next elections.
Zameer, a popular leader in his minority-dominated Chamarajpet constituency, had organised relief measures during the pandemic.
Apart from the transport business, Zameer’s family is known to run casinos in Sri Lanka. Zameer is said to have hosted parties at his casinos that have seen celebrities from Karnataka and elsewhere in attendance. Bollywood stars Sanjay Dutt, Shakti Kapoor and Jackie Shroff had turned up for Zameer’s 50th birthday celebrations in Bengaluru.
Zameer has usually been vocal in his support of Tipu Sultan and opposed the BJP whenever it issued statements against the 18th Century Mysore ruler. He had also demanded the state Haj House be renamed after Tipu.
Zameer has periodically found his way into controversies and is often the butt of social media memes and trolls. At a recent public event, Zameer fed a morsel of food to a Dalit priest, asked him to spit it out, before eating it himself – a video that went viral.
Zameer is never too far from controversies. His name had also come up in the 2018 multi-crore IMA ponzi scam, but he was later given a clean chit.
Recently, in the midst of the hijab controversy, he landed himself in a spot when he said it was necessary for Muslim women to wear the hijab to prevent themselves from rape. He later apologised for his remarks.
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