The dispute regarding Mahanadi waters has embarrassed a section of BJP’s Odisha unit, after one of its senior leaders slammed the Narendra Modi government’s support to Chhattisgarh in the matter.
BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra had recently alleged a conspiracy, citing the Centre’s affidavit to the Supreme Court, which submitted that a tribunal cannot be constituted at this juncture. Talking to the media, Mohapatra reminded them that Union Minister of State Sanjeev Balyan had earlier stated in Parliament that the dispute cannot be resolved by negotiation and a tribunal has to be constituted.
“We don’t agree with the views expressed by Bijay Mohapatra,” Odisha BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma told The Indian Express over phone.
Mohapatra, who was publicly criticised by other BJP leaders from Odisha for attacking the Centre, did not respond to interview requests by The Indian Express.
Some district-level BJP leaders said they are embarrassed because the Centre had favoured Chhattisgarh over Odisha. While a section of state BJP leaders said they were helpless with respect to the Centre’s stand, others expressed confidence that it would not hurt them politically.
A top BJP leader said, “The Odisha BJP unit has no role here. We will fight for Odisha, but to say that we can influence the central government is far-fetched.”
Another BJP leader told The Indian Express, “The BJD is overestimating its hand if it thinks it can reap great political dividend from this issue. As the party in power, they are first answerable for not doing enough to protect Odisha’s interests.”
The BJD, on its part, took the opportunity to attack the state BJP on the issue. “Odisha BJP has failed the people of Odisha. They could have told (BJP chief) Amit Shah that Mahanadi is a state issue, not a political issue,” said Pratap Keshari Deb, BJD’s Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson.
“Chhattisgarh has prepared a detailed project report (DPR) taking the entire Mahanadi upper basin into consideration, which is about 109 projects. But they submitted projects, for Central Water Commission’s (CWC) clearance, one at a time. This master plan prevented us from knowing the entire thing,” said Deb.
“It was revealed at the time of the Arpa Bhaisajhar Project that Chhattisgarh proposes to link all tributaries of Mahanadi and regulate its water upstream, a catastrophic situation for us in non-monsoon period. Also, if there is a heavy downpour, they can release all their water. We only have Hirakud, and we will be forced to open our gates, leading to a catastrophe in Odisha.”
Referring to Mohapatra’s allegations, Deb said, “Yes, this is a conspiracy. Chhattisgarh has done this to favour industries, not its farmers or public. The Odisha BJP did not take a stand on the matter.”
The BJD leader continued, “There can be two reasons why BJP is favouring Chhattisgarh (unit) over Odisha (unit). If the tribunal comes into force, they (Chhattisgarh government) will be exposed because they have not taken environmental clearance, they have hedged funds, and shown the Centre that they are doing a minor irrigation project whereas it is a barrage project for industry. The second is that the BJP senses the political mood of the country against it, and are holding on to their bastions (like Chhattisgarh) rather than fight in new areas (like Odisha).”