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Murthy aur Gowda ko gussa kyon aata hain?
rediff Business Desk | October 24, 2005
In the red corner: N R Narayana Murthy, chairman and chief mentor of software major Infosys Technologies. The information technology hub of India does not have an international airport, and Murthy -- who as head of the Karnataka IT Task Force had been a vocal advocate of air connectivity to major international cities -- had been appointed the Bangalore International Airport Limited chairman in January 2001.
In the blue corner: Former prime minister and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo H D Deve Gowda. As head of the coalition partner, he is the Karnataka state government's big brother. If he withdraws support, the government will fall.
The fight: It all began when Deve Gowda criticised Murthy, saying the software czar had not contributed to BIAL in the five years that he had been chairman of the project.
On October 20, a livid Murthy dashed off a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh, quitting as BIAL chairman.
The Infosys chief mentor decried Deve Gowda's statements against him.
On Saturday, Deve Gowda attacked Murthy even more vociferously, saying there were other IT companies too which had contributed to the growth of Bangalore. Gowda accused the Infosys chief of meddling in government affairs.
Flashpoint: While the airport project was the main battleground for the politician versus industry pioneer fight, there was a subplot. Deve Gowda had asked Chief Minister Singh to probe land allotment to IT companies – read Infosys – and how many jobs they had created.
The day after Murthy quit, Infosys -- which prides itself on its squeaky clean reputation -- issued a point-by-point rebuttal of Gowda's accusations: How much land had been allotted, how much investment had been made, how many jobs had been created.
There is another related development that has led to the fight. The Union government has agreed to probe contracts awarded by BIAL to its shareholders. Under the scanner are construction and electric system contracts worth Rs 884 crore (Rs 8.84 billion) BIAL has awarded to L&T and Siemens, which have stakes in BIAL.
Result: The Deve Gowda-Murthy fight has three dimensions to it.
One, the IT industry in the state has been complaining about inadequate infrastructure in the state and the lack of political will to do something about it. On the other hand, the government's coalition partners have been questioning the rationale of the government's focus on only the urban areas.
Two, Murthy is seen as being close to S M Krishna, the Karnataka chief minister who resigned after the May 2004 election and is currently the Maharashtra governor. That does not go down too well with Deve Gowda.
Three, Many development projects initiated by the S M Krishna government -- such as the Bangalore Agenda Task Force and the Bangalore-Mysore Highway project -- ran into allegations of corruption and inactivity. The Krishna-backers say the controversies were needless ploys to stall development.
And, most analysts believed that ignoring the rural areas of the state led to Krishna's downfall.
So, ultimately, it is a fight of development versus political motives.