Charging that the government was not doing enough to prevent Tamil Nadu from utilising the surplus water in the Cauvery basin that is yet to be allocated among the riparian States, the Opposition on Tuesday accused the BJP of using the Cauvery issue for electoral politics in Tamil Nadu at the cost of Karnataka’s interests.
Karnataka is yet to approach the Supreme Court against the link scheme for which Tamil Nadu laid foundation last month. A delegation from the State government is yet to met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to request him to stop the project, the Opposition members pointed out. Expressing unhappiness over the government’s reply on its efforts to protect the State’s interests, Congress and JD(S) members walked out of the Legislative Council.
The Opposition members had raised the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to lay foundation for the Cauvery-Vellaru-Vaigai-Gundar link scheme to transfer surplus water from the Cauvery basin to its southern regions. The ₹14,500-crore project, to be implemented in three phases, proposes to utilise about 40 tmcft of surplus water to fill 1,054 tanks and irrigate about 1.09 lakh acres. Tamil Nadu has urged the Centre to consider this as a national project and as part of the Godavari-Krishna-Pennar-Cauvery rivers linking project.
Leader of the Opposition S.R. Patil questioned the government over the delay in filing a petition on the matter in the Supreme Court. “The BJP is sacrificing Karnataka’s interests by trying a new alliance with the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu,” he said. He also pointed out that when the State government was asking Andhra Pradesh and Telengana’s permission to build a parallel reservoir across the Tungabhadra, Tamil Nadu should have done something similar.
Congress chief whip M. Narayanaswamy accused the BJP of playing vote-bank politics ahead of the elections in Tamil Nadu. “You should talk to the Prime Minister. If you cannot speak up before him, take an all-party delegation,” he said. JD(S) member Thippeswamy pointed out that Vaigai and Gundar do not come under the Cauvery basin, and the Cauvery tribunal had said that inter-basin transfers should not happen. “So it is illegal. Karnataka has to get a share of around 45 tmcft of water in the diversion of Godavari water to Cauvery via Krishna.”
Deputy Chief Minister Govind Karjol, who replied on behalf of the government, said that Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa had written to the Prime Minister and the Jal Shakti Minister expressing the State’s opposition to Tamil Nadu’s project and requesting the Centre’s intervene. Saying that there was no need to be anxious, he said, “Karnataka is also putting in place plans to utilise surplus water.” He also said that neither the Union government nor the Central Water Commission could give approval to the project since it was illegal.
Mr. Karjol said the National Water Development Agency had estimated that about 247 tmcft of surplus water from Godavari could be transferred to the Krishna-Cauvery basin. “Karnataka has consistently opposed inter-basin transfer without agreement on the allocation to the States,” he said.
However, the Opposition members pointed out that old projects were far from being completed. After Mr. Karjol said that the Centre had not promised any money to the link project, the Opposition members asked why the Prime Minister’s Office had not clarified on this.
JD(S) leader and former Minister H.D. Revanna demanding that the House adopt a resolution against the move and submit it to the Centre.
While Mr. Revanna sought permission to discuss the issue through an adjournment motion that has a censuring clause, Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri said he would shortly allow a detailed discussion under a non-censuring clause.
Mr. Revanna expressed concern that injustice would be meted out to 11 districts of Karnataka in the Cauvery basin, including Bengaluru, if Tamil Nadu went ahead with such a move. He said the Centre had given permission for such a scheme in view of the forthcoming Assembly elections in that State.