Karnataka gets Maharashtra firm to build Belgaum pride

Even for those whose business is politics, business and politics need not always mix. The massive new Suvarna Soudha building in Belgaum — the pride of Karnataka, and symbol of its rulers' desire to lay a monumental claim to the city that Maharashtra wants for itself — is being built by a Maharashtra company.

The Suvarna Soudha is modelled after the Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore, the seat of the Karnataka government and the two houses of the state legislature. The government of B S Yeddyurappa started to push the project to build a second secretariat towards the end of 2008 in an attempt to give Belgaum the status of Karnataka's second capital, and hold an Assembly session in the city like Maharashtra does in Nagpur.

The B G Shirke Group, a Pune-based family-owned construction firm, is now racing to complete the Rs-256 crore project spread over a 127-acre area on a hillock at Halaga-Bastwad village off National Highway 4, about 10 km from Belgaum.

Officials at the construction site said Karnataka wants the project to be partly ready by the end of the year, so that the winter session of the state Assembly can be convened there. The entire structure, with three wings like the Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore, is expected to be complete by March 2011.

Some Marathi groups like the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) and the Shiv Sena have been upset over the 'negative' symbolism of a Maharashtrian company building the Suvarna Soudha in Belgaum.

"Isn't it sad that a cause for which we have been fighting for the last 56 years is being damaged by another Maharashtrian, that too from Maharashtra?" said the city president of the MES, T K Patil.

The Shirke Group, which lists several huge Karnataka projects among its accomplishments in India and abroad, including the Vikas Soudha, the extension of Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore, refused to be dragged into a controversy.

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