BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday held a meeting with leaders of Karnataka BJP to discuss the party’s strategy for the upcoming Assembly elections and is learnt to have asked the state leaders to aggressively take up Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s controversial offer to share Mahadayi river water for drinking purposes and put the Congress government on the mat over the issue.
According to sources, Shah directed the state unit to launch a “multi-pronged campaign to channelise the anger of the people against the Congress government in various sectors” and asked them to be “aggressive”, and “intensify the aggression” as the election nears. “The focus of our attack will be Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his policies. (Congress president) Rahul Gandhi will have to face a different music in Karnataka (compared to Gujarat),” a senior BJP leader said.
Determined to win the high-stakes election, and make Karnataka its gateway to south India in the general election next year, Shah held a series of meetings with BJP MPs, MLAs, senior leaders from the state, district chiefs and other party office-bearers in Benguluru on Sunday to discuss the poll strategy.
Parrikar’s offer on sharing Mahadayi water for drinking purposes — water is a hot-button election issue, especially in at least 50 Assembly seats in the parched northern districts of Karnataka — is learnt to have been discussed in detail.
Political compulsions in Goa, where Parrikar heads a coalition government, seems to have forced a change in his stance and now maintain that the tribunal will take the final decision. BJP’s ally Goa Forward Party had been openly opposing Parrikar’s announcement on sharing water.
As a result, three days after BJP’s Karnataka unit president and its CM candidate, B S Yeddyurappa, read out Parrikar’s letter assuring a solution at a public rally, farmers in north Karnataka pitched a tent in front of the BJP office and protested.
But BJP leaders believe “intense campaign” on the issue will change the situation in their favour. “The farmers are there on Congress party’s persuasion, but the BJP is not (running) the government (in Karnataka). Parrikar’s assurance was for drinking water, and it stands. Now the (Karnataka) Chief Minister can only materialise such an agreement,” BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao, the party’s Karnataka in-charge, said.
“It is strange that the Congress, which never could do anything to resolve the issue — (when) it was in power in Karnataka, Goa, and at the Centre — is now blaming the BJP,” Rao said.
A party leader said, “Parrikar’s assurance is technically sound — it is only for drinking water and the sharing of water for other purpose can be decided by the tribunal. But in order to materialise the drinking water-sharing issue, Karnataka needs a CM who can work with Goa to push it forward. So the campaign would be on that line (electing a BJP government to get water share).”
Once it peaks, Rao said, the BJP campaign will be unstoppable. “The Congress…cannot hope for a situation like Gujarat, where it had the advantage of being the opposition party.”