Crisis looms for the Kerala government on account of Union home minister P Chidambaram’s reported statement that the rising tempers on the Mullaperiyar dam issue are centred on an upcoming assembly byelection in Kerala.
Speculation is rife that the Kerala Congress (Mani), a constituent of the ruling United Democratic Front with nine MLAs, may withdraw its two ministers to put pressure on the Congress.
The state Congress leadership has sought action against the home minister.
“It is unfortunate that a responsible minister made such a statement. We will bring it to the notice of the Prime Minister and the Congress president,” said chief minister Oommen Chandy.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ramesh Chennithala said: “The impropriety of the statement will be brought to the notice of the Congress leadership.” State finance minister and Kerala Congress (M) chief KM Mani said: “Chidambaram has no moral authority to continue in his office.”
The Kerala Congress (M) has been in the forefront of the fresh agitation on the 116-year-old dam.
PTI has reported from Chennai addressing a public meeting, Chidambaram said Kerala’s fear on the dam was unfounded and born out of bypoll compulsions. “It is an unnecessary fear. It is not even a temporary or a permanent fear. It is just a by-poll fear,” he said.
The dam on the river Periyar lies in Kerala but the Tamil Nadu government controls its operations in accordance with a treaty of the 1880s between the British and erstwhile Travancore royal family.
Tamil Nadu is citing increasing water needs and a 2006 Supreme Court directive on raising the storage level of the dam to 142 feet from the existing 136 feet. Kerala is opposed to it and wants the new dam to be 120 feet high.