The contentious river water issue is set to take the centrestage in Punjab polls, as the Supreme Court has decided to hear the Hansi-Butana case from April 24. Water-sharing has remained one of the top political planks for the SAD-BJP as well as Congress in Punjab.
The Congress-led Haryana government demands water from Punjab through Hansi-Butana canal, which the Punjab, especially Congress, opposes.
However, the BJP, which is part of the ruling alliance in Punjab with Shiromani Akali Dal, in its manifesto at the national level bats of interlinking of the rivers.
The Congress-ruled Haryana’s persistent demand for water from Punjab through Hansi-Butana and the BJP supporting interlinking of rivers leave the Punjab Congress and the SAD in a tight spot. BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi in his speeches promise to interlink rivers, which can put SAD-BJP on the backfoot in Punjab.
Haryana wants to breach the Bhakra Main Line (BML) canal and connect it with its intra-state Hansi-Butana canal to draw part of its share of the Ravi-Beas waters.
The canal was built in 2007 with a cost of 400 crore, but it couldn’t be put to use. Punjab opposed it and taken a stay from the Supreme Court on August 17, 2007. Now, Haryana has approached the court for early hearing to vacate the stay.
Former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said, “River water is a major issue for Punjab, and I had terminated the Waters Agreement Act 2005.
However, it’s the Akalis who f ailed to keep a single promise on water issue, which they exploited only to gain votes. I have always been against it. Punjab doesn’t have a single extra drop of water for other states.”
Capt Amarinder also asked Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to come clean on the issue in the light of the BJP manifesto.
Preneet attacks SAD
As the controversial Hansi-Butana canal passes adjoining Patiala, the Congress candidate Preneet Kaur also has started exploiting the issue for political gains.
Without mentioning that it’s Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana is demanding water, she attacks SAD. She alleged that Punjab would turn into a desert if the rivers are interlinked as being touted by BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“I am dismayed at the double standards of Badal, who on one hand claims to be the messiah of farmers and on the other hand is talking of joining the rivers,” Preneet said.
When questioned about the BJP manifesto promising interlinking of rivers, the SAD president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal said, “SAD is totally firm on its stand against sharing of water. As far as BJP manifesto is concerned, its their opinion.
Once NDA will come in to power, all coalition parties will sit together and draw a common minimum programme, where SAD will have its say.” He said that the Congress-led Haryana government was raising “illegal” demands.
Senior BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia said that interlinking of rivers was in the national interest. “However, the BJP has promised that only the rivers with excess water will be interlinked, so that floods can be averted and parched areas also get enough water,” he said.
On SAD’s contrary stand, Kalia said, “A common minimum programee will be framed at the central level, where all such contentious issues will be deliberated upon with all allies.”