Bengaluru: Farmer groups in north Karnataka have called for a bandh tomorrow demanding the implementation of the Kalasa-Banduri project. This project would involve diverting water of the Mahadayi river from its two tributaries, Kalasa and Banduri in some of the northern districts of the state. Goa had raised objections to this project saying that it would affect their water supply from the river. And now protestors in the northern districts of Karnataka are raising the level of the agitation with this bandh call.
The dispute among the three states is already seeing a fallout in Karnataka's capital, Bengaluru. Farmers from areas that receive water from the Mahadayi river have been protesting outside the BJP office in Bengaluru for the last few days. They say that state party chief, BS Yeddyurappa had promised to solve the issue by the year end.
One of the protestors, Panchegoud D, a farmers' leader, told NDTV, "Mr Yeddyurappa had promised that he will release the water of Mahadayi to Malaprabha by December 15."
The protesters have camped outside the BJP office and are being offered support by pro-Kannada groups and filmstars in their agitation.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had responded to Mr Yeddyurappa's letter on the water-sharing issue rather than to the Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, something which offended the Congress leader.
In a letter to his Goa counterpart, Siddaramaiah said, "... the media in Karnataka has been reporting a personal letter addressed by you to Mr Yeddyurappa....I only wish you had replied to my letter since I took the initiative for the negotiated settlement, non only on my own but also on the suggestion made by the honourable judges of the Mahaday Water Disputes Tribunal."
Siddaramaiah went on to say that he was once again asking for a meeting with the chief ministers of Goa and Maharashtra.
After meeting the protesters, KPCC working president, Dinesh Gundu Rao said, "We don't want to make a promise that we can't keep. Look what happened to Yeddyurappa. He made a promise and couldn't keep it."
Mr Yeddyurappa and the BJP did not take kindly to Siddaramaiah criticising their initiative. In a press release, Suresh Kumar of the BJP had said, "Instead of showing magnanimity and appreciating the sincere efforts of the BJP in getting water to the parched areas of north Karnataka after convincing the government of Goa, the chief minister ...has criticised our President....Needless and unwarranted criticism of Sri Yeddyurappa shows the myopic attitude and pettiness of Sri Siddaramaiah."
BJP spokesperson, Srinath Shwethadri, told NDTV, "The ball isn't in our court anymore. We have moved it to Siddaramaiah's court - and Siddaramaiah has to move further and see that people get water. It is his commitment to the people because he is the government in Karnataka."
Water wars between states are nothing new. But discussion over the sharing of the waters of Mahadayi is now resulting in turbulence internally in Karnataka. Probably this is something to be expected with elections around the corner and each party hoping to convince the voters that they are doing more for the people.