Updated: January 12, 2022 2:24:19 pm
The BJP government in Karnataka Wednesday sought a day’s time to respond to a petition filed in the High Court questioning the legality of a 100-km ‘Walk For Water’ march by the Congress despite restrictions imposed on public gatherings and protests amid rising Covid-19 cases in the state.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activist Nagendra Prasad A V against the Karnataka government, state officials and the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee over the ‘padyatra’ which began Sunday.
The state government sought time to respond to the queries posed by a division bench on what has been done by it to curb the protest being held amid restrictions. The division bench, headed by chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, also raised queries on whether the protest march is being held with the government’s permission and asked if the government is waiting for court orders to act on violations.
The state government has so far issued notices to Congress against the march and has filed at least three police cases against its leaders but has not initiated any direct action.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah said Congress will not be deterred by police cases being filed against leaders by the state government.
The BJP is wary of political repercussions of stopping the protest since water issues are considered to be an emotive in southern Karnataka where the march is being held.
Congress embarked on the padyatra on January 9 seeking implementation of the Mekedatu reservoir project on Cauvery river — a project that is disputed by neighbouring Tamil Nadu — to facilitate drinking water supply to Bengaluru.
Siddaramaiah said, “We will wait and see the outcome of the case and decide on the future of the protest march which is scheduled to conclude in Bengaluru on January 19 after traversing across as many as 15 assembly constituencies spread over 100 km in south Karnataka.”
Meanwhile, the BJP government has dismissed the `Walk For Water’ as a “political gimmick” and termed it as a march for seeking forgiveness for not implementing the project when Congress was in power between 2013 and 2018. The project was proposed in 2013 by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government.
State Water Resources Minister Govind Karjol said Congress must approach its ally DMK, which governs Tamil Nadu, to seek clearances for the project since Tamil Nadu has raised legal objections to it in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, both BJP and Congress in Karnataka have engaged in an advertisement war in prominent local Kannada newspapers over the implementation of the Mekedatu project since the protest march began. Both the parties and their leaders have issued full-page advertisements stating the initiatives undertaken during their tenures for the implementation of the project.
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