Modi, Shah assurances on Mahadayi raise fresh questions

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By Vijaykumar Patil

May 10: The assurance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step in to evolve An amicable solution to the protracted dispute on sharing of Mahadayi waters between the riparian states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra during an election rally in Gadag on Saturday and BJP’s national president Amit Shah going a step further on the following day – assuring that he would resolve the row within six months if his party was elected to power in May 12 elections to the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly, has only raised fresh questions on the prospects of the elusive solution:

Question 1: What if the BJP’s bid to wrest the power from the Congress in Karnataka fails?

“Such situation will push the issue back to square one and we will have to keep looking at the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (MWDT) for justice,” says Vijay Kulkarni, who is heading the relentless struggle through the Kalasa-Banduri-Malaprabha Yuva Horata Samithi since past 22 years in Mumbai-Karnataka region, presently

He recalled that not only the BJP but also the sitting Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah and Congress leaders had promised to complete Kalasa-Banduri Nala projects during his pre-poll election campaigns in 2013 in vain but indulged in blame game after assuming power then, and the blam game continues to be there even today with both parties pointing fingers at each other only to lure the voters and hide their failures to do their bit.

Question 2: Who prevented Mr.Modi and Mr.Shah from taking the initiative to find the amicable answer to the row when their party is in power at the centre for the past four years now?

Question 3: In the event of BJP returning to power, will the Prime Minister relax his condition that Congress President Sonia Gandhi and all the three units of the party in Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra should present a united face vis-à-vis the state of Ms.Gandhi during 2007 election in Goa that ‘not even a drop of water from Mahadayi will be given to Karnataka?

Question 4: Why Mahadayi, until Mr.Modi and Mr.Shah came out with assurances failed to assume the shape of a potential issue both for the agitating farmers and the contesting parties/candidates of the region?

As the conscious voters and those associated with the farmers’ struggle on the issue ponder over these questions on this broody issue, Mr.Kulkarni made some plain speaking while sharing his candid view with this author, making it categorically clear that he has no political ambitions nor holds any personal affiliation to any party or leader(s). Following is excerpt from his brief interview:

The Prime Minister could have resolved the issue in five minutes. By virtue holding most powerful post in the country, he can do it even today. Mr.Shah, who is hailed for successful electoral politics so far, could have used his political wisdom to develop consensus among the three riparian states. They need not lay what appears to be a condition for the water-starved farmers to support BJP to come to power. Apparently, an early political solution was possible outside the framework of the MWDT but disease of politics has cost very dearly to the farmers and their families region.

Nargund reminds of the historic and popular agitations by the native people over the issues concerning farmers. Many farmers became martyrs in police firing during the historic farmers’ rebellion of 1983, which made a characteristic impact changing political equations over-throwing the Congress regime and establishing the then first non-Congress government in Karnataka. With that, the small town of Gadag district, Nargund earned the sobriquet “Bandayada Nela”, meaning the land of rebellion.

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Karnataka, precisely north (Mumbai-Karnataka) Karnataka region’s demand is for only 7.56 tmcft of from out its total share of about 57 tmcft from the Mahadayi river through the two proposed diversion projects – Kalasa and Bandura at the Goa-Karnataka boundary to meet drinking water and irrigational needs of the farmers. This small quantity of water in a year will be a game changer for the region. It will not only ease the thirst of water-starved families but also irrigate their parched agricultural lands resulting in increase food grain production, fodder for cattle, creation of more employment opportunities in rural areas and check migration to urban centres and boost local trade and industry in its own way and thereby, economically empower families to provide better education and healthcare to its members. It will also boost the bio-diversity and invite more birds and boost natural ambience and boost up more number of  green patches and help check air pollution in the region. So much is important water for us, but I fail to understand why our politicians of the day fail to understand this, we are part of the country not outsiders. They talk of river linking on side and but don’t act when needed.

It is constitutional obligation of any government to provide water to the citizens yet the politicians and the governments that be in power appear to make interested in politicizing the issue for electoral gains. Political parties and political leaders are expected to make common cause when it comes to issues concerning people who elect them to power. At least the Prime Minister should be above party politics for the simple fact that he represents entire nation but not a one political party or state. What worth are his repeated statements exhibiting concerns for farmers without providing them much needed water?

Yet, Mr.Modi was fair enough in advising the Congress units in the three riparian states to get one straight letter from their former party president Sonia Gandhi stating she or her party has no objection in sharing Mahadayi waters between Goa and Karnataka. But, instead of convincing Ms.Gandhi and evolving consensus among its counterparts in Goa and Maharashtra, Siddarmaiah government kept putting the centre in the accused-box alleging that the latter was not responding to its series of letters seeking Prime Minister’s intervention for early and out-of-the-court resolution of the dispute.

We all know that after giving clearance, it was the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government which kept the issue in abeyance following a protest by the then BJP government in Goa and how the dispute eventually landed into MWDT.

Yes, it is an ironical fact that despite three years of intensified, unabated and continuing agitations by the farmers under the banner of “Pakshateeta Horata Vedike” (non-political front) in Nargund and supported by farmers organisations like Karnataka Rajya Raith Sangh other parts of the region, marked by bandhs, road blocks, angry protest forcing police to caning and the loud call to teach a fitting lesson to the parties and politicians for their failure to positively respond and alleged conditional willingness of the Prime Minister to intervene, the Mahadayi dispute could not become a poll plank in the current elections until now for the reasons not difficult to understand. Firstly, no party is in a position to claim credit of at least making sincere efforts for early resolution. Secondly, the issue is before the MWDT, which is expected to deliver its final verdict in few months from now, tentatively in the last week of August this year. And, thirdly Mr.Kulkarni says, no political party has any genuine concern for the farmers of the region and using their burning issues to suit their political interests by indulging in blame games.

Yet, with the Prime Minister and BJP national president breaking their allegedly stoic silence maintained for long just a week before Karnataka goes to polls on May 12, apparently with eyes of voters of the region, Mahadayi is now an issue indeed at least in four districts of Mumbai- Karnataka consisting of 36 assembly seats in the four districts of Bagalkote-7, Belagavi-18, Gadag-4 and Dharwad-7 from out of total 56 in North Karnataka region housing three more districts of Vijayapure-8, Uttar Kannada-6 and Haveri-6.

But, with the people of the region will once again open the doors for BJP and help it garner required number of seats to occupy treasury benches in the Vidhana Soudha for the second time or keep shut the doors of what the party considers as its gateway to the South India, is the question the answer for which would be available by May 15 afternoon. E.O.M.

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