Experts Don’t Believe in BJP’s Poll Promise of Ending Cauvery Row

Experts say that the Cauvery water dispute will remain a bone of contention, if not tackled properly by the BJP.

4 min read
Hindi Female

Over the last month, multiple leaders in the Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) openly admitted that the framing of a Cauvery scheme was delayed by the Centre because of the impending Karnataka elections. What’s more, the solution they provided to Tamil Nadu's thirst was for the BJP to come to power in the neighbouring state.

After the BJP forms the government, we will meet the Karnataka Chief Minister within a month and discuss the Cauvery issue. We will keep the issues being faced by Tamils in mind.
Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan to The Hindu
If the BJP comes to power in Karnataka, the good rapport between the two states will be maintained. The BJP government should be in power to ensure that the Cauvery dispute ends.
Tamilisai Soundararajan, Tamil Nadu BJP President to The Times of India

And now, days after these statements were made, BS Yeddyurappa of the BJP has indeed been sworn in as Chief Minister of Karnataka. So, does this mean Tamil Nadu's water woes will end as promised?

No, say experts, senior journalists and stakeholders who have been keenly studying the dispute over several years.

'Doesn't Matter Who is in Power'

The Tamil Nadu BJP's statement, allege experts, is merely an effort to get out of a tough situation.

"It doesn't matter who comes to power in Karnataka – the BJP or Congress, it is still going to be a problem for Tamil Nadu," says a top lawyer who has handled the Cauvery case for Tamil Nadu in the past.

"The state will continue to suffer because both these national parties have no stake in it. The chances of them coming to power in Tamil Nadu is negligible and so therefore, Karnataka is more likely to benefit from this situation. The matter could in fact get worse if the JD(S) is at the helm of affairs. HD Deve Gowda is known for the aggressive manner in which he tackles the water sharing issue," he adds.

A former Public Works Department official, who has keenly observed the Mullai Periyar river issue, tells TNM that having the same party in power in the Centre and state would mean there is coordination between the two.


"This way the state cannot defy the Centre's orders. But there is no guarantee that the BJP will ensure the requisite amount of water that will to be released," he says.

According to the scheme submitted by the Centre, the Cauvery Water Management Authority will have the power to do “any or all things necessary, sufficient and expedient for securing compliance and implementation of the final decision and direction of the Tribunal further modified by the Supreme Court Order dated 16.02.2018”.

And in order to ensure implementation of the scheme, the authority has been given the power to take appropriate action against states that are not cooperating with the water sharing agreement.

"In such a case, the chairman of the water authority will have to be neutral and not pander to any party," says the senior advocate. "If not, it will be very difficult for Tamil Nadu to get the 117 tmc ft of water ordered by the court," he adds.

But according to the scheme, not only is the authority expected to consult the Centre in case of a dispute, but Chairperson himself/herself is appointed by the Centre.

How can we then expect such a body to implement the scheme correctly?
A Saravanan, DMK spokesperson

Composition of Authority

As per the scheme, the chairperson of the authority has to be a full-time member (water resources) and will be appointed by the Centre. There will be one representative from each of the stakeholders – Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry – not below the rank of Chief Engineer of the water resources department, one representative from the IMD, one from the Central Water Commission, one from the Central Ministry of Agriculture and a secretary to the authority. That makes it a total of nine members, five of whom will be selected by the central government.

The decision of the authority is binding on all the party states and union territory.

We will have to see how the monsoon is this year before the exact amount of water to be released is decided. If there is not enough rain, we have to see how much water Karnataka can share. The BJP will have to be very careful because if the state’s farmers are unhappy, the Opposition will definitely make it a big issue. 
DP Satish, a senior journalist to TNM

Karnataka Government Still Under Pressure

The BJP government has come to power despite the Congress-JD(S) alliance having the required numbers to form government. In such a situation, their every act will thoroughly scrutinised, say experts.

"The Cauvery delta in Karnataka is dominated by members of the Vokkaliga caste and their loyalties lie with the JD(S). HD Deve Gowda has a reputation for handling the Cauvery issue effectively," says Satish.

In October 2016, the 84-year-old leader had in fact launched an indefinite hunger strike against the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. He only ended it after ministers from the BJP-led government at the Centre – HN Ananth Kumar and DV Sadananda Gowda – assured him that they would take it up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

(This article was first published by The News Minute. It has been republished with permission).

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to and hit send)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and india

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More