The BJP in Karnataka, including Union ministers, are urging the state government to talk with Tamil Nadu to find a solution to the Cauvery water-sharing issue, even as the ruling dispensation has been seeking the prime minister’s intervention.
The Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) and Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) orders to release water to Tamil Nadu have put the Siddaramaiah government on a sticky wicket.
It has been almost over two weeks since the Karnataka chief minister wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an appointment to take an all-party delegation to Delhi on the Cauvery issue. However, he is yet to receive a reply from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Siddaramaiah and his Cabinet colleagues met Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and explained the ground situation in Delhi on 21 September. The chief minister had then also demanded the prime minister’s intervention.
After taking part in the all-party MPs meeting the Karnataka government convened in Delhi on 20 September, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi asked the Siddaramaiah government not to “politicise” the dispute.
Instead, the two state governments should sit together and resolve the dispute, he advised Karnataka.
JD(S) supremo and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, an alliance partner of the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, also wrote to the prime minister seeking his intervention on 25 September. He also sought the appointment of an external agency to study all reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin.
Irrigation experts, too, urged the prime minister to initiate talks with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, even though the matter was before the apex court.
PM should intervene: Congress
Ever since the Supreme Court refused to intervene and upheld the CWMA orders, the Siddaramaiah government has been demanding the prime minister’s intervention to resolve the ongoing dispute.
In a post on X, Siddaramaiah said: “Every drop counts. The Cauvery’s appeal for justice echoes across our state.”
Every drop counts!!
The Cauvery’s appeal for justice echoes across our state.
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) September 26, 2023
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Karnataka’s plea is simple: Intervene, help us secure our rightful share of Cauvery waters, and protect our farmers’ future,” he posted.
In Delhi, Siddaramaiah said that Karnataka recorded the lowest rainfall for August this year in the past 123 years. It added to the distress across the state. “We have no water available for irrigation, drinking and industrial purposes. We are in severe trouble,” he said.
“The Prime Minister must intervene in the matter as he has the power to summon the people of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” he added.
Welcoming Deve Gowda’s letter to PM Modi over Cauvery row, Siddaramaiah said: “The only effective and appropriate solution to the current situation is for PM Modi to mediate and resolve the issue through dialogue to avoid the injustice to the state.”
ಕಾವೇರಿ ನೀರು ಹಂಚಿಕೆಗೆ ಸಂಬಂಧಿಸಿದಂತೆ ನಾಡಿಗೆ ಎದುರಾಗಿರುವ ಸಂಕಷ್ಟ ನಿವಾರಿಸಲು ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ನರೇಂದ್ರ ಮೋದಿ ಅವರು ಮಧ್ಯಸ್ಥಿಕೆ ವಹಿಸುವಂತೆ ಕೋರಿ ಮಾಜಿ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ಹೆಚ್.ಡಿ ದೇವೇಗೌಡರು ಪತ್ರ ಬರೆದಿರುವುದನ್ನು ನಾನು ಸ್ವಾಗತಿಸುತ್ತೇನೆ.
ಪ್ರಸ್ತುತ ಸಂದರ್ಭದಲ್ಲಿ ನಾಡಿಗೆ ಆಗುತ್ತಿರುವ ಅನ್ಯಾಯವನ್ನು ತಪ್ಪಿಸಲು ಮೋದಿ ಅವರು ಮಧ್ಯಸ್ಥಿಕೆ ವಹಿಸಿ… https://t.co/pfy7J1Oo6B
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) September 25, 2023
“I believe that the Prime Minister will accept the request of former prime minister Deve Gowda and initiate talks. Taking inspiration from Deve Gowda, the state BJP leaders and MPs of the party should pressure the Prime Minister to intervene. They should also request to facilitate a meeting of all-party leaders with the Prime Minister at the earliest,” Siddaramaiah appealed to BJP leaders.
He added that the state has a history of political parties burying their differences and coming together to solve problems that threaten the interest of the land, water and language. “I believe that the BJP will follow this legacy like the JD(S),” he added.
Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, who holds the water resource portfolio, also demanded the prime minister’s intervention.
“We have released only around 34 percent of the water to Tamil Nadu. We will hold talks with our counterpart only after 26 September. We have also requested for the intervention of the prime minister,” he stated.
PM can’t intervene: BJP
However, the BJP has a different take on the issue. BJP leaders, including Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, asserted that the Union government could not intervene as the CWMA and CWRC were semi-judicial authorities.
He urged the Karnataka government to hold talks with Tamil Nadu instead of seeking the Union government’s intervention.
“All MPs and Union ministers from the state will protect the interests of Karnataka. The Centre will continue to extend the required cooperation,” Joshi added.
State leaders, too, echoed the same opinion. “The prime minister and the Jal Shakti minister cannot intervene as the dispute is before the apex court,” former deputy chief minister Govind Karjol told South First.
“The Congress and DMK governments should hold talks as both parties belong to the INDIA bloc. The Union ministers and BJP MPs from Karnataka are cooperating and extending their full support to the government,” he added.
Of the total 28 Lok Sabha MPs from Karnataka, 25 are from the BJP and one Independent MP backs the BJP.
Expert points at precedence
Meanwhile, an expert felt that the prime minister should take the initiative to sort out the contentious issue.
“The prime minister has discretionary powers. He can convene a meeting on any matter, irrespective of its legal status. Even when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister, she had called for a meeting of united Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu on a similar water dispute,” irrigation expert Ashok Chandaragi told South First:
“Similarly, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also chaired such meetings between the two states. The prime minister has all the authority to hold dialogues with the two states on the Cauvery river water issue,” he said.
He also said that if both states failed at arriving at a consensus at the prime minister-convened meeting, then they could go to court.
“If the meeting is successful and both states come to an agreement, then the court will not intervene considering it as an out-of-the-court settlement. The Union government must act on this simmering dispute between two states,” he added.
It may also be noted that the Union government has the majority in the CWRC committee.
Of the six members, three are from the Union government: The representative of the India Meteorological Department (rank of joint secretary), a representative of the Central Water Commission (CWC), and one from the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
Now, CWC Chief Engineer Navin Kumar is the chairman of the CWRC.