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Supreme Court directive on Cauvery may cast shadow on polls

Apex court order may change political equations in Old Mysuru region at a time when campaigning is at its peak

The Supreme Court directive to the Karnataka government to release 4 tmcft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu and warning of ‘serious consequences’ if its fails to follow the orders is likely to cast a shadow on the Karnataka assembly election to be held on May 12.

At a time when campaigning is at its peak, the Supreme Court order may the change political equations in Old Mysuru region. Although the Cauvery issue had taken a back seat in this elections season after the apex court granted an additional of 18 tmcft of water in its final verdict, Thursday’s ruling has brought the water dispute between riparian states back to the centre stage.

The irrigation department’s refusal to release water for semi-dry crops, as promised in the irrigation consultative committee meeting, has left political parties, particularly incumbent MLAs in the region, facing the wrath of farmers who have lost their crops. Voters in Mandya, Mysuru and parts of Chamarajanagar districts, who have been pressing release of water for drinking purpose, filling up of tanks for cattle and also for standing sugarcane crops in a few pockets, are making their anger known to political leaders during their campaigns.

As of Thursday, the state had 9.3 tmcft of water of which around 7 tmcft is available in all the four reservoirs — Krishnaraja Sagar, Kabini , Hemavathi and Harangi. At KRS, there is less than 3.42 tmc of water available.

While Irrigation Minister M B Patil has categorically ruled out any release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, the court order has put the government and irrigation department authorities in a fix as there is not enough water to meet the drinking water needs of Bengaluru, with a population of 1.5 crore, Mysuru, Mandya and other towns. However, Public Works Minister H C Mahadevappa reiterated that drinking water is the top priority of the government.

The region received good pre-monsoon last May, but is yet to witness good rains so far this year. In the light of this, there is already apprehension about drinking water scarcity in Bengaluru and other cities. Though the incumbent government has steadfastly opposed setting up of the Cauvery Management Board, this could have political implications for the current dispensation.

On previous occasions, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, after consultations with JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda and the BJP, had refused to release water maintaining that there is not water in the state’s reservoirs. Any escalation of the Cauvery agitation in the run-up to the polls could pose law and order problems. The hospitality industry in Mysuru and Kodagu is anticipating good turnout of tourists during vacations. But the Cauvery issue may spoil the party.

Simmering tempers

Anticipating that the Supreme Court directive will affect the state, BJP’s candidate from Srirangapatna, Nanjunde Gowda, along with hundreds of his supporters, took out a silent protest march in the town on Thursday.

Cauvery Raitha Hitharakshana Samithi president and former MP G Made Gowda urged the state government not to release water to Tamil Nadu. “How can we give water when we have no water to meet drinking water needs in the region,” he asked.

Threatening that the people of the state will give Chief Minister Siddaramaiah a tough time if he releases water to Tamil Nadu., he said that the Union and state governments should apprise the court about the prevailing situation.

Water Level at KRS (May 3)

72.46 ft ( 124 .8 ft max)

71.92 ( previous year)

115 Inflow cusecs

986 Outflow

(Content first published in New Indian Express)