Krishna waters row floods Telangana Assembly with Congress and BRS trading blows

The Congress criticised Leader of Opposition and BRS chief KCR for his absence during a crucial discussion about the progress of Telangana.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Feb 12, 2024 | 8:18 PM Updated Feb 12, 2024 | 8:18 PM

Telangana Assembly

The Telangana State Assembly witnessed a fiery debate on Monday, 12 February, surrounding the government resolution on sharing Krishna river waters with Andhra Pradesh, and the associated concerns regarding the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB).

In the heat of debate, the state government spared no effort in portraying the previous BRS administration as the antagonist. They accused former chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao of inflicting immeasurable harm to the state’s interests during his decade-long rule.

In retaliation, the BRS aimed to shift the blame onto the ruling party, accusing them of “betraying” the state’s interests by relinquishing control over the Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar projects on the Krishna river.

CM takes dig at KCR

The Congress, however, criticised Leader of Opposition KCR for his absence during a crucial discussion about the progress of Telangana.

Chief Minister Revanth Reddy said that it was unfortunate that the Leader of Opposition “hid himself” in his farmhouse when the House was discussing the Krishna river waters. “Let KCR come to the House. Till then, let the House be adjourned. He has to be in the House since he is the embodiment of all the sins that were committed in Telangana in the last 10 years,” he said, evoking sharp protests from BRS members.

He further taunted the BRS. “Maybe the BRS should make Secunderabad MLA T Padma Rao the Leader of Opposition,” he quipped, as Padma Rao Goud was sitting in the seat meant for KCR. “He anyway deserves the position since it was Padma Rao, more than KCR, who fought for Telangana,” he said, drawing more protests from the BRS.

Revanth went on ruffling their feathers, asserting that only KCR’s words held weight within the party. He said that others who were speaking, implying Harish Rao, were leaders of no consequence and that their arguments carried no weight.

“Let KCR come to the House and let us discuss how he had sacrificed the interests of the state for ‘fish soup’ served to him during his visit to Rayalaseema in the past,” he said.

The Chief Minister was obviously referring to lunch hosted by Andhra Pradesh Minister Roja and KCR telling her afterwards that he would turn Rayalaseema into Ratnala Seema.

In response, BRS MLA and former minister Harish Rao took a jab at Revanth Reddy, insinuating that when the latter spoke about the Telangana movement, it was akin to devils quoting scriptures, hinting at Revanth Reddy’s past affiliation with the TDP during the peak of the movement against the division of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.

Also Read: Revanth wields ‘corruption’ stick to beat BRS with action against Telangana officers

The KRMB debacle

The focal point of disagreement between the Congress and the BRS centred on who was responsible for transferring control of the Krishna river projects. The BRS argued that the state had consented to the transfer at the KRMB meetings on 17 January and 1 February.

The BRS, to substantiate its argument, quoted from the minutes of the 17 January meeting, and showed video clips of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Engineer-in-Chiefs informing the media after the 1 February meeting that they had consented to transfer the control. The BRS also produced minutes of the second meeting in an attempt to nail the government.

However, the Congress insisted, as it has in the past, that it had not signed the minutes that the Union government had released and that it was dead against the transferring of control to the KRMB.

Irrigation Minister N Uttam Kumar Reddy, who moved the government resolution, said that at no stage was the state government in favour of handing over the projects and that what minutes say or what officials speak would not hold water. He, as the Irrigation Minister, and Revanth Reddy, as the Chief Minister, were moving the resolution against handing over the projects and therefore, it supersedes the officials’ statements.

Uttam Kumar Reddy made a presentation in the Assembly with an intent to nail the BRS regarding the irrigation sector. He said that the Congress was committed to putting the irrigation sector back on track and not allowing the interests of the state to be mortgaged.

Also Read: Education gets 12% boost in Telangana budget 2024-2025

Jagan, KCR friendship?

He played a video of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy thanking KCR profusely for consenting to draw water from Telangana’s share (of Godavari river water) and said that there could be no more clinching evidence than his statement to prove that KCR had acted against the interests of the Telangana state.

He also recalled how KCR “allowed” Jagan Mohan Reddy to release water from Nagarjuna Sagar into its right canal without clearance from the KRMB on the night of 29 November, a day ahead of the Telangana Assembly elections. “Jagan Mohan Reddy sent his policemen to the project, set up barbed wire fences, and took control of the right portion of the project, when the entire project was in Telangana’s control. The intention was to make it look like only KCR and no one else could fight such huge instance of injustice and thus, win the election in Telangana,” he charged.

He was implying that Jagan Mohan and KCR had done it together as they shared a thick bond of friendship.

Uttam Kumar blamed the erstwhile BRS government for settling for 299 tmcft water of the total 811 tmcft allocation made for the entire undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2015, one year after the formation of Telangana state. He highlighted that the BRS government consistently renewed this agreement annually until recently, when they opted to maintain the same pact until the Krishna Water Tribunal determined Telangana’s share in Krishna waters.

Uttam Kumar Reddy asserted that the state had the potential to demand up to a 70 percent share in Krishna waters, based on international conventions, which consider factors such as catchment area, cultivable land, and population. Despite the first Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) allocating 811 tmcft to undivided Andhra without specifying projects, the Telangana government failed to capitalise on this opportunity and settled for a meagre 299 tmcft. He lamented, “In Independent India, no state has endured as much loss as Telangana did in the last 10 years under the BRS dispensation.”

To counter the BRS’s claim that Congress officials relinquished control over irrigation projects on the Krishna river, Deputy Chief Minister Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka alleged that the ENC representing the Telangana government was a former BRS employee, retained even after his retirement in 2013. Vikramarka suggested that this individual may have maintained loyalty to the BRS, even after the change in leadership, insinuating a BRS conspiracy to tarnish the Congress government and harm Telangana’s interests.

He asserted, “It is likely that there are more such BRS agents in the government, and they will face similar consequences.” Engineer-in-Chief (ENC) C Muralidhar Rao was asked to resign on 7 February.