Waiting for water

Published : May 09, 2008 00:00 IST

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said he did not want permanent enmity to develop between the two States.-K. PICHUMANI

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said he did not want permanent enmity to develop between the two States.-K. PICHUMANI

When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi announced on April 5 that the State government will temporarily observe peace on the Hogenekkal drinking water project and that it will await cooperation from the new government in Karnataka which would be formed after the Assembly elections in May, the announcement took everyone by surprise. The opposition parties protested against the unilateral announcement and accused the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader of betraying Tamil Nadus interests and abandoning the project which would have provided drinking water to people in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister M. Veerappa Moily proclaimed that Karunanidhi agreed to put the Hogenekkal project on hold at the intervention of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The next day, however, Moily denied having said that Sonia Gandhi had called up Karunanidhi.

The project came into focus after a new round of dispute between the two States on the sharing of the Cauvery waters (Frontline, April 25). On March 16, former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders crossed the Cauvery river in a coracle into Tamil Nadu near Hogenekkal in Dharmapuri district, shouting slogans against the project.

In 1998, at the intervention of the Union Water Resources Ministry, the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments had given no-objection certificates to the Bangalore drinking water supply scheme and the Hogenekkal scheme.

The Karnataka government began the Bangalore project soon after. The foundation stone for the Rs.1,334-crore Hogenekkal project was laid on February 26 this year.

After Yediyurappas protest, opposition to the project gathered momentum in Karnataka leading to violence. Retaliatory violence broke out in Tamil Nadu and political parties were united in asking the Karunanidhi government to remain firm on executing the project. The Tamil Nadu Assembly unanimously passed two resolutions rejecting Karnatakas opposition to the project.

The Chief Ministers April 5 announcement came in this backdrop. He said that he took the decision because he did not want permanent enmity to develop between the two States and that no violence should erupt when Karnataka was going to the polls.

We will temporarily observe peace in this issue and feel confident that after an elected government takes office in Karnataka, it will realise the reasonableness of our stand and that the project will be implemented as per the agreement reached in 1998, Karunanidhi said.

However, opposition parties in the State, including the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK) and also the DMKs ally, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), accused Karunanidhi of having taken an arbitrary decision on this issue.

AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa argued that Tamil Nadu needed no permission from Karnataka to implement the project because the two States were using the Cauvery water from within their boundaries to execute their projects.

How can Karunanidhi unilaterally decide on the issue after the Assembly had twice passed resolutions on it? Why did he not make this announcement on the policy shift in the Assembly? What is the connection between the Hogenekkal project and the elections in Karnataka? she said.

PMK leader S. Ramadoss blamed the DMK government of inaction in executing the project when it was in power from 1996 to 2001. MDMK leader Vaiko wanted to know the reason behind Karunanidhi putting the project on hold after the Assembly had resolved twice that it should be implemented.

Karunanidhi, however, said there was no policy shift in his announcement. I have not said anywhere in any statement or speech that I have abandoned the project, he asserted. He claimed he had to announce the decision in the interests of the safety of the Tamils living in Karnataka and the Kannadigas living in Tamil Nadu and that he did so with the sentiments of a Tamil and the broad outlook of an Indian. He could not make the announcement in the Assembly because there were three intervening holidays, he said.

T.S. Subramanian
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