Politicians refuse to be drawn into SC directive on Cauvery


Key political leaders in Karnataka have maintained a pragmatic silence over Thursday’s Supreme Court directions for release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

The reactions have been muted from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi, all of whom are currently campaigning in the State.

Siddaramaiah, however, said the State will consult its lawyers before taking a call on the Supreme Court’s direction though he did say that there was not enough water for the State for release to Tamil Nadu.

The Centre had informed the top court that it would need more time to frame the Cauvery draft water-sharing scheme as the Prime Minister and other ministers were busy touring Karnataka ahead of the May 12 polls. But the Supreme Court asked the Centre to inform it by next Tuesday the steps taken to frame the scheme for monitoring the release of water to Tamil Nadu.

The legal team representing Karnataka told BusinessLine that the Supreme Court judges had orally mentioned that there is shortage of water of 4 tmcft, which Karnataka may have to release. “However, we submitted that Karnataka has ensured more water than what Tamil Nadu is entitled to receive at the inter-State border.”

Karnataka will file its affidavit submitting that the share of Tamil Nadu in this distress water year (upto the end of April 2018) was 98.06 tmcft. However, Karnataka had ensured 116.74 tmcft, a surplus of 18.68 tmcft. Besides, Karnataka would also submit that the live storage in Mettur in Tamil Nadu is 9.56 tmcft, which is sufficient to meet its drinking water needs. Karnataka would also submit that the live storage in its four reservoirs is 9.93 tmcft, which is required for meeting the drinking water needs of rural and urban areas, including Bangalore, the legal team said.

Both Siddaramaiah and Modi find themselves in a spot of trouble as any softening of their respective stands is likely to influence voters’ decision, especially in 65 seats in the Old Mysuru region.

JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda too has not made any statements so far. The veteran leader had gone on an “indefinite” fast in October 2016 seeking justice for Karnataka after the State was asked to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery river waters to Tamil Nadu.

The 83-year-old leader broke his fast following an assurance from Modi but his actions gave a fresh lease of life to the near-moribund existence of his party. Since then, the JD(S) is being taken seriously while Deve Gowda has managed to gain lot of respect from Kannadigas.

On February 16, the Supreme Court had increased water allocation to Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet). Karnataka’s water release obligation too has been reduced from 192 tmcft per year to 177.25 tmcft with its monthly release obligations being reduced proportionately. The monthly release obligations in a distress year will be decided by the proposed Cauvery Water Management Board, though Karnataka has opposed its constitution.

While all the political parties in the State hailed the decision, Tamil Nadu’s leaders said they had been short-changed. But with Thursday’s instructions, it is quite clear that whoever comes to power in Karnataka will have to take some hard decisions that could lead to some measure of turmoil in the State.

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