Even as Bengaluru, the IT capital of India, on Tuesday observed a total bandh to protest against the release of Cauvery water to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) dealt another blow to Karnataka by asking the state to release more water.
The bandh call given by the Karnataka Jala Samrakshana Samithi (water protection committee), an umbrella outfit of pro-farmer and other organisations, evoked spontaneous response from the public as schools, colleges, malls, cinema halls, markets, commercial establishments, including hundreds of IT companies remained shut. Several flights were cancelled and people travelling by train had a torrid time reaching home as public and private transporters had joined the protest.
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— Esha Srivastav🇮🇳🚩 (@EshaSanju15) September 26, 2023
The busy Bengaluru-Madras road wore a deserted look as movement of buses, trucks and other private vehicles were halted at the border on either side as a “precautionary measure” as tempers were running high in both the states. There have been instances of serious violence in the past, resulting in police firing and death, besides burning of public properties.
Is Congress kow-towing to ‘INDI’ Alliance
The Siddaramaiah government has come in for severe criticism for releasing 15 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu in the beginning of the month itself on the orders of the party high command. Since Congress and DMK are part of the ‘INDI Alliance’ MK Stalin reportedly spoke directly to Rahul Gandhi, who in turn directed deputy chief minister and water resources minister DK Shivakumar to release the water. Congress relies on DMK for 8-10 Lok Sabha seats, which almost come ‘free’ with DMK’s support. The political future of P Chidambaram’s son, Karti Chidambaram, also rests in the hands of the DMK.
Subsequently, Tamil Nadu had approached the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) and the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to obtain favourable orders for the release of 5,000 cusecs of water per day. The Karnataka government approached the Supreme Court against these orders, but the court refused to interfere with the orders.
Issuing fresh orders on Tuesday, CWRC directed Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs per day from September 28 to October 15.
Karnataka is facing its worst drought and water shortage in a decade with sharp fall in rainfall in the Cauvery catchment areas. The state has declared 161 talukas, including 32 talukas in the Cauvery region, as severely affected by drought. Most of Bengaluru’s needs comes from the Cauvery river and for a population touching 1.5 crore.
Turning into a poll issue
The Cauvery crisis threatens to become a major issue in the coming Lok Sabha elections. It could not have come at a worse time for Shivakumar, who hails from the Old Mysuru region, the hotbed of Vokkaliga farmers’ politics. As KPCC president, he was hoping to ‘present’ to the party high command about 20 seats in the Lok Sabha polls on the back of ‘freebies’ to the people and stake his claim for chief minister’s post but his calculations now seem to be going awry.
Shivakumar’s decision to release water even before the court order has been highlighted by the Opposition as a “betrayal” of the people of Karnataka for the sake of “INDI politics.” His demand that the 25 BJP MPs bring pressure on the prime minister to come to Karnataka’s rescue has been countered with the argument that Sonia and Rahul should prevail upon Stalin to show some consideration to Karnataka in its season of difficulty.