The situation is not as bad as the riots of 1991-92,when parties standing on the plank of local Kannada pride had exploited the emotive Cauvery issue with the tacit support of the Congress government to brew hatred against Tamils. However,as current events show,while the potency of Cauvery waters as a matter of rabid regional pride may have shrunk,it has far from died out.
Its the weak monsoon that has been the trigger this time. And no party has remained unaffected.
The Congress,which has political currency in the region and which has in the past played with emotions in the Cauvery basin,is walking a tightrope. After the Cauvery River Authority headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered the BJP government in Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu on September 19,Congress leaders had shoes thrown at them by protesters.
The Congress strategy now is to blame the BJP,saying the Jagadish Shettar government did not effectively fight Karnatakas case.
The JD(S) of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda is caught in a similar dilemma. It draws its political base from the Vokkaligas,the dominant community in the region. While local JD(S) leaders too have incurred the ire of protesters,Gowda has advised partymen against going overboard with their protests. It was Gowda himself who had ordered water release when he was PM,and his political exigencies now lie in keeping both the Congress and the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu in his good books.
The BJP,which has little political traction in the Cauvery basin,has effectively taken the position that it is doing just what the Congress under S M Krishna had done during distress year 2002 (incidentally when the NDA ruled at the Centre). It initially refused to comply with the CRA order,was then forced to comply by a Supreme Court order,then yielded to protests and has now stopped water release.
In the absence of an effective formula for sharing the Cauvery during distress years,it will take fresh bouts of rain to douse passions.
Johnson is a senior assistant editor based in Bangalore,firstname.lastname@example.org