Mhadei: Much Ado about Nothing Much

By Ashwin Tombat
01 January 2018 13:22 IST

On Wednesday 2 August 2017, on the floor of the Goa Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar called Karnataka's Kalsa-Bhandura river diversion project an 'ecological bomb'. He said Karnataka had been fighting with each of its neighbours over water — Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra — everyone except the Arabian Sea...!

Mr Parrikar described how in 2002, Karnataka "falsely" claimed it wanted drinking water for Hubballi and obtained an order from the Centre for diversion of 7 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) of water. "Within eight days I led a delegation to Delhi and, after lengthy arguments, convinced the Union Minister for Water Resources [Arjun Charan Sethi] that the Malaprabha basin had surplus water and that Karnataka was not using its water judiciously. It wanted water to be diverted for other purposes. We got the order stayed," he declared.

Just four months after breathing fire in the legislative assembly, Mr Parrikar on Thursday was suddenly sharing water. His government was willing to consider an "amicable settlement" with Karnataka. Goa would not oppose a “reasonable” and “justified” quantum of water meant for drinking, after the matter is discussed bilaterally as suggested by the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal, a letter he wrote to Karnataka's former BJP Chief Minister and present state BJP President B S Yedyurappa said.

On Thursday 21 December 2017, at a public rally in Hubballi held as part of the BJP’s ongoing statewide 'Parivarthana Yatra' to “expose misdeeds” of the state's Congress government, Mr Yedyurappa read out Mr Parikkar's letter to the crowd. It says: “The Government of Goa understands that access to drinking water is a basic human need. Hence it is to confirm to you that on humanitarian grounds, Goa is willing to consider the request to work out an amicable settlement strictly restricted to drinking water only.”

Mr Yedyurappa's dramatic announcement (and Mr Parrikar's letter) came following a meeting on Wednesday held at the residence of BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi. It was attended by — apart from Shah, Parrikar and Yedyurappa —  Union Minister for Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar, and BJP MP for Dharwad Pralhad Joshi.

It appears that Karnataka BJP leaders persuaded Mr Shah to pressurise Mr Parrikar, since Mr Yeddyurappa had earlier promised to find a solution to the Mhadei water row with Goa "within a month". Recently, the Karnataka BJP chief was put in a spot when questioned about missing the deadline. He blamed the delay on the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls.

It seems strange that the Chief Minister of Goa should write to the State President of the Karnataka BJP about a solution to a water sharing dispute between the two states. Karnataka's Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah rightly questioned: “How can Yeddyurappa announce a solution to the crisis? The Goa CM has to write to us about their decision to release water and communicate it to the tribunal... This is a political gimmick by the BJP.”

That's what it is; no more and no less.

Karnataka goes to the polls in early 2018. The BJP in the state has been under fire on the issue from the Congress and Janata Dal(S), which say the BJP government in Goa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are not sympathetic to the state’s drinking water needs.

That this is a purely political 'agreement' became obvious when Mr Yeddyurappa, after reading out the contents of Mr Parrikar's letter at the ‘Parivarthana Rally’ in Hubballi, promised to resolve the dispute if voted to power.

By writing to Mr Yedyurappa and not to the state government, Mr Parrikar is basically being completely non-committal. At the same time, he is not only helping the Karnataka BJP, but also keeping the party's top leadership in New Delhi happy.

For Mr Parrikar and the BJP, it's a win-win-win gambit. His letter to Mr Yedyurappa is not worth the paper it is written on.

The Mhadei Water Dispute Tribunal is adjudicating the dispute over Mhadei river water allocation  amongst Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Until and unless the Goa Chief Minister sends a similar letter to the Tribunal and/or the Karnataka state government, Goa's interests remain unaffected.

First published on Sunday 24 December 2017

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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