A common refrain in the election campaign meetings of infrastructure builder-turned-politician Ashok Kheny, contesting from Bidar South Assembly constituency, is that farmers who lose land for projects should be compensated at the market price. This has opened a can of worms with his opponents asking whether Mr. Kheny paid market price to farmers who lost their lands to the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor which his firm, NICE, is building.

At a press meet in Bidar recently, Mr. Kheny said his firm had paid Rs. 7 lakh per acre and “gifted” farmers 2,400 sq ft sites for every acre acquired. He said the State government asked him to pay only Rs. 2 lakh per acre, but he insisted on paying Rs. 5 lakh more in addition to the sites.

Bandeppa Kashempur, JD (S) nominee, asked: “Does Mr. Kheny think market price of land between Bangalore and Mysore is just Rs. 7 lakh an acre? Can you buy a small piece of land for a tea shop with that money in that area?”

Baburao Honna, CPI candidate, said Mr. Kheny has “no moral authority” to speak of market price as he was granted land at “throwaway prices”. T.J. Abraham, social activist and Independent candidate, said land price when the project was approved 17 years ago was Rs. 70 lakh.