In what appears a change of stance in its policy on sharing Mahadayi river water with Karnataka, the BJP government in Goa on Thursday wrote to the party’s Karnataka unit president, stating that Goa will not oppose “in principle” sharing water with Karnataka for drinking purposes.
In his letter to Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar wrote, “Government of Goa is willing to consider the request to work out an amicable settlement strictly restricted to drinking water only to the drought prone areas.”
On Thursday, Yeddyurappa announced this at a BJP rally in Hubbali, in the dry north Karnataka region.
Parrikar’s letter, widely seen as a gambit to help BJP in Karnataka Assembly elections next year, has sparked a political row. On Thursday, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah called it an “election gimmick”, and questioned the rationale behind a chief minister writing to his party’s state leadership rather than the constitutionally elected government of the neighbouring state.
In Panaji, the BJP’s offer did not go down well with a coalition partner. “We are sounding a note of caution to our own government: If you are going to sell out, then we would not want this ministry,” said Vijay Sardesai, president of Goa Forward, an ally of BJP.
The party’s Vinod Playekar, the state’s Water Resource Minister, tweeted that Goa Forward will not be a party to the “sell-out of Goa”.
The offer comes even as the issue of sharing Mahadayi (also called Mhadei, or Mandovi in Goa) water faces a logjam following Goa’s refusal to heed to requests by Karnataka for bilateral discussions to sort out the dispute, as suggested by the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal.
Mahadayi water sharing is a hot poll issue in over 30 constituencies in northern Karnataka. Farmers in Hubbali, Dharwad, Gadag and Belagavi have been up in arms for years — they held a 300-day protest last year — demanding implementation of the 30-year-old Kalasa Banduri water project on Mahadayi tributaries to divert water for drinking purposes to these dry districts.
Over the past few weeks, Karnataka BJP has put pressure on the party’s national leadership to intervene in the Mahadayi dispute, and get Goa to drop its tough stance in the interest of BJP’s poll prospects in Karnataka. Parrikar’s letter follows a meeting of BJP leaders with party president Amit Shah in New Delhi on Wednesday. Besides Parrikar and Yeddyurappa, BJP’s Maharashtra unit chief participated in the meeting.
Although the issue is “pending before the (river) Tribunal, in principle the state of Goa should not oppose the reasonable and justified quantum of water meant to be utilised for drinking”, Parrikar wrote.
Siddaramaiah, who wants PM Narendra Modi to convene a meeting of Mahadayi riparian states (Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra) — as suggested by the tribunal to explore an amicable resolution — said, “The chief minister of Goa must write to the government of Karnataka, or Mahadayi River Water Disputes Tribunal, stating that it is willing to provide 7.56 tmc water for drinking purposes in north Karnataka. What is the point of writing to the BJP state chief?”
In Panaji, Goa Forward chief Sardesai told The Indian
Express: “If the final decision is to sell out (Goa), we will have to rethink whether we want to participate in such a ministry. Water should not be given in excess. They (Karnataka) can pump water, but they should not utilise their canals.”