BJP’s Latest Strategy in Karnataka – ‘Water Politics’

BJP hopes to get votes from the North Karnataka region by finding a solution for the Mahadayi dispute.

4 min read
<p>Mahadayi/Mandovi Bridge in Ribandar</p>

As the assembly elections are getting closer, the BJP in Karnataka has introduced a new strategy – water politics. The BJP leadership in Karnataka has promised a solution for the long-pending river dispute between Karnataka and Goa to provide much-needed drinking water for drought-affected North Karnataka.

The leadership has been hoping to influence the BJP-led government in Goa, through central command, to resolve a dispute. If successful, this resolution increases BJP’s chances of getting a large chuck of the 50 assembly seats North Karnataka has to offer. However, the plan has not been as easy as the Karnataka BJP thought.

A long political drama folded over two days in Karnataka and Goa regarding the disputed Mahadayi river, with the BJP’s allies in Goa refusing a compromise. After several meetings, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, wrote to the Karnataka BJP president BS Yeddyurappa, offering an amicable solution. However, the ambiguity in letter has taken the dispute back to square one.

What Is the Mahadayi River Dispute?

Mahadayi river, which flows into Goa as Mandovi, originates from Karnataka’s Belgaum district. The river flows 35 kms through Karnataka and then 52 kms through Goa, before flowing into the Arabian Sea. The river is a mere cluster of springs at its origin, Bhimgad in Karnataka. They eventually form a river at Degaon village in Khanapur taluk of Belagavi district.

<p>Mahadayi river.&nbsp;</p>

Mahadayi river. 

(Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia/Harvinder Chandigarh)

While the river is a lifeline for the drought-affected districts of North Karnataka, it is one of the primary rivers for Goa. Due to this, Karnataka’s plans to construct seven dams on the river, aimed at diverting the waters into its water-starved Malaprabha basin in North Karnataka, have been challenged by Goa in an inter-State Tribunal.

On 27 July 2016, the Mahadayi River Disputes Tribunal rejected an interim plea by Karnataka to allow diversion of 7.56 thousand million cubic (tmc) feet to meet drinking water requirements in four northern districts of Karnataka. The matter remains disputed, as the two meetings between Chief Ministers to settle the issue out of court, did not take place.

BJP’s Water Politics

A new development in the dispute took place on 20 December, when Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parikkar announced that Goa would share water with Karnataka for drinking purposes. The announcement of this in-principle decision was made after the Karnataka BJP leaders met, Parrikar at BJP president Amit Shah’s residence.

However, a day after the BJP was to celebrate this decision as victory, Vinoda Paliencar, Goa’s Minister for Water Resources, refused to share the water. On 21 December morning, he tweeted: “Our Goa forward party & my WRD depts stand remains unchanged on #Mhadei. We are committed to protect our mother #Mhadei & protect each drop of water. We are committed to protect Goem Goem Goemkarponn to take #GoaForward.”

The Ambiguity in Communication

After BJP faced opposition from their allies in the Goa, several meetings were called by Parrikar. Soon after these meetings, Parrikar wrote to Karnataka BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa agreeing to an amicable solution to the sharing of drinking water.

In the letter, Parrikar wrote: “You are aware of the matter pending before the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal. Although the issue of drinking water is one of the issues pending before the tribunal, in principle the state of Goa would not oppose the reasonable and justified quantum of water meant to be utilised for drinking.”

<p>Manohar Parrikar wrote a letter to BS Yeddyurappa on 21 December.</p>

Manohar Parrikar wrote a letter to BS Yeddyurappa on 21 December.

(Photo Courtesy: PTI)

Although in his letter Parrikar agreed to share water, he did not mention how much would be shared, which was main point of disagreement between Karnataka and Goa in the tribunal.

Parrikar suggested that the amount to be shared should be discussed between the two governments. “Government of Goa is willing to consider the request to work out an amicable settlement strictly restricted to drinking water only to drought-prone areas. It is needless to mention that the discussion shall be without prejudice to our rights and contentions before the tribunal, none of which are even touched by this letter,” Parrikar added.

BJP Is Lying: Siddaramaiah

On Thursday, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has came down heavily on BJP leaders, claiming they were lying to the people of the State about resolving the Mahadayi issue.

The Hindu quoted Siddaramaiah as saying, “Who is Yeddyurappa to claim to have resolved the issue? What authority does he have to end it? The only person who can resolve the issue is the Prime Minister. Obviously, Yeddyurappa is not the Prime Minister. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also promised the people of Hubballi-Dharwad to end the river water-sharing issue soon. Who is Adityanath to speak of ending an inter-state dispute?”

<p>Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.</p>

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

(Photo: PTI )

He added that it is not enough for the State BJP leaders to claim that they have held a meeting with Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as per the instructions of BJP national president Amit Shah. “Parrikar is yet to make any statements about the issue. He should not only give statements in favour of the Mahadayi issue, but also file a no- objection application before the Mahadayi river water tribunal. This only means that the BJP’s statements are just false claims by leaders like Yeddyurappa only to gain the goodwill of the people before elections,” The Hindu reported him saying.

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