Goa minister's abusive remark, Mahadayi river row may hurt BJP in poll-bound Karnataka
Karnataka and Goa are locked in a bitter battle over sharing of the Mahadeyi river waterindia Updated: Jan 15, 2018 14:22 IST
The Mahadayi river dispute may hurt the Bharatiya Janata Party’s chances in the assembly elections just four months away in Congress-ruled Karnataka after its government in Goa upped the ante against sharing of the water with the southern state.
Karnataka and Goa, the riparian states of the Mahadayi river (known as Mandovi in Goa), are locked in a bitter battle over sharing of the river water, which originates in Belagavi in the southern state.
The Supreme Court ordered Karnataka last year to stop construction of the canal at Kankumbi, which was aimed at diverting water from the Mahadayi tributary.
Goa irrigation minister Vinod Palyekar on Saturday allegedly used abusive words towards the people of Karnataka after visiting the site of the Kalasa-Banduri Canal Project, which seeks to divert water from the Mahadayi to the arid Mumbai-Karnataka region — comprising Belagavi, Gadag, Vijayapura, Haveri, Dharwad and Bagalkot districts.
And on Sunday, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said the state’s chief secretary had written to his counterpart in Karnataka “pointing out to the violations of the SC directives by the resumption of the work on a canal at the Mahadayi tributary”.
These developments have taken place after the issue was escalated since former chief minister and state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa read out a letter from Parrikar on December 21, in which the Goa chief minister said he was willing to consider the diversion of water for drinking purposes in the arid northern regions of Karnataka.
Farmers in the region – comprising Belagavi, Bagalkot, Dharwad, Gadag, Viajayapura and Haveri districts – in the northern part of the state are up in arms after Goa objected to the proposed diversion of water from the river’s tributaries.
Their anger boiled over because the letter was addressed to Yeddyurappa and not to the state government. Farmers from the northern districts held a protest outside the BJP state office in the capital Bengaluru.
Reacting to Palyekar’s comments and Goa’s claim that the work on the canal projects had not been stopped, state irrigation minister MB Patil said the allegations were completely baseless.
“It is clear that in a bid to save face in Goa, Parrikar has orchestrated this current move because his letter to Yeddyurappa had drawn flak in that state,” Patil said.
According to Patil, who is a leader from the northern Mumbai-Karnataka region, where the river originates, the whole issue was avoidable and Yeddyurappa was to be blamed for the current impasse.
“To discredit the state government and show that he was the only person who could solve the dispute, Yeddyurappa decided to play with the sentiments of the people of the region, especially farmers. This will definitely come back to haunt him,” Patil said.
The Mumbai-Karnataka region, comprising 50 of the 224 seats in the state assembly, has long been called the base of the BJP’s support in the state. However, the party was reduced to a fraction of the seats in the region in the previous assembly election after Yeddyurappa broke away from the party.
The BJP rubbished any such threat.
“The party has already condemned the comments made by the minister and there is absolutely no threat of being caught on the wrong foot on this issue,” S Prakash, a spokesperson for the party, said.
“They have been demanding that the Prime Minister should intervene in the matter. But, the state government has not shown any interest in resolving the issue. Besides, the Goa Forward Party was an ally of the Congress till recently,” Prakash said.
However, pro-Kannada organisations, which had already called for a shutdown on January 25, are angrier now. The Kannada Okkoota, an umbrella organisation of pro-Kannada groups, has threatened to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi with black flags when he visits the state on January 28.
Vatal Nagaraj, a leader of the Okkoota, said the Prime Minister had shown no interest in resolving the issue.
“On top of that, we also have to listen to these abuses from the minister of Goa. We will not tolerate such humiliation,” he said.
“First, we need to ask under what authority the Goa minister visited the state to inspect the works. Was he asked to do so by the tribunal? Or the Centre? Or was he invited by the state government?” Nagaraj asked adding that if no such invitation was extended then it was a violation on his part to have visited the spot.
Political analyst Sandeep Shastri said Yeddyurappa’s effort to show that he was capable of providing a solution in the Mahadayi issue seemed to have backfired.
“I doubt if this issue will be resolved before the elections because both the Congress and BJP have been trying to make the most of it,” he said.
“Ever since the Congress said chief minister Siddaramaiah would lead the campaign, he has strategically attempted to steer the issue away from the BJP’s pan-India nationalism by privileging the local,” Shastri said.
Siddaramaiah’s insistence on addressing press conferences in Kannada despite being fluent in Kannada, Shastri said, was an example of this.
According to Shastri, there is a significant consolidation of Kannada identity on the ground, “even if it does not take the militant form it does in neighbouring Tamil Nadu”.
Hence, he said, it was set to become a significant issue in the elections.