A derogatory remark about the people of Karnataka by Goa’s water resources minister, Vinod Palyekar, has triggered a political uproar in poll-bound Karnataka, with politicians across the board, including of the state BJP, condemning the remark. Palyekar belongs to BJP ally Goa Forward Party.
Amid a dispute over the waters of the Mahadayi river, Palyekar, who visited the Karnataka side of the river, used an expletive Saturday to describe the people of Karnataka and alleged that Karnataka was proceeding with work on a canal system to divert water from the river to parts of the state. Referring to people of Karnataka, Palyekar said in Goa that they “cannot be trusted” and that they “already started diverting water from the Mahadayi, which otherwise nourishes Goa”.
“They are [expletive] people. They can do anything,” he said. He later claimed to have used the word in the heat of the moment.
Karnataka’s Water Resources Minister, M B Patil, has denied the allegations Palyekar and stated work on the canals was halted long ago.
Karnataka’s Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has called Palyekar’s remark “disgraceful”. “The abusive words used against Kannadiga by @BJP4India irrigation minister from Goa are reprehensible to say the least. However we hold no grudge against the people of Goa. We will continue to strive to secure drinking water from Mahadayi for our people,’’ Siddaramaiah tweeted.
State Congress working president Dinesh Gundu Rao called the comments an attack on Kannada pride and questioned the silence of BJP leaders in the state. He said the minister had insulted BJP leaders in Karnataka too.
State BJP president B S Yeddyurappa later issued a statement condemning the remarks. “When a conducive atmosphere was developing between the two states irresponsible statements have vitiated the situation,’’ Yeddyurappa said, calling for an apology from the Goa minister.
JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy also condemned the remarks. “It does not behove well for the position held by the minister to insult Kannadigas to please people in Goa,’’ Kumaraswamy said.
The river dispute has emerged a key electoral issue in over 30 seats in northern Karnataka where elections are scheduled this year. In a December 21 letter to Yeddyurapa, Goa’s BJP CM Manohar Parrikar had said Goa was willing to consider an amicable settlement to the demand for drinking water by people from drought-prone areas in northern Karnataka.
The move was widely seen as an attempt to help the BJP in Karnataka ahead of the polls. The offer came despite Goa’s refusal in the past to heed requests from Karnataka for bilateral discussions to sort out the dispute as suggested by the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal and despite protests by BJP allies in Goa.