Raising the prospect of another showdown over river water sharing with Karnataka, the Tamil Nadu assembly will meet for a special session today to discuss the proposed construction of a reservoir-cum-drinking water project at Mekedatu across the Cauvery, about 110 km from Bengaluru.
Despite opposition from Tamil Nadu, the Central Water Commission has given its in-principle approval for preparing a detailed project report -- or DPR for the Rs. 5,000-crore project capable of storing 66 TMC feet of water.
As Karnataka views this as a victory for the state, the protests have been brewing in Tamil Nadu against the project. Tamil Nadu suspects with the proposed project the neighbouring state intends to extend the area under irrigation that which will deprive its farmers their due share of Cauvery water. Tamil Nadu government has said that the proposed project violates the order of the Cauvery Tribunal.
On Tuesday the Opposition parties held a massive protest in Trichy against the project. DMK chief M K Stalin warned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be stopped from entering Tamil Nadu if he decides to support what he described as a "cheat Tamil Nadu" project.
"If Modi decides to cheat, he will not be able to enter Tamil Nadu. Has he forgotten the last time he landed here to a black flag demonstration? Mr Stalin had asked. All opposition parties in Tamil Nadu including the BJP oppose the proposed project. The state BJP chief Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan and Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan said the go ahead for Mekedatu project is unacceptable. Mr Radhakrishnan is the lone BJP Lok Sabha member from the state.
Analysts in Tamil Nadu see this as an attempt the BJP government at the Centre to woo voters in Karnataka ahead of Lok Sabha polls as the party has negligible presence in Tamil Nadu but has ruled Karnataka in the past.
Karnataka has been trying to allay the fears of Tamil Nadu, saying the project will not affect the flow of water to lower-riparian state. But with the two sides sticking to their viewpoints, the proposed project could ignite another face-off between the two sates known for their bitter history over the Cauvery water sharing-- replete with court battles, political protests and street fights.
The former chief ministers and irrigation ministers of Karnataka will meet in Bengaluru today to discuss the Mekedatu. Irrigation Minister DK Shivakumar is slated to conduct a site visit along with officials on Friday.