While the national media continues to be in love with games played by Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi’s “khat”s, Karnataka is in a mess – political and agrarian. Few months ago, the states of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra were embroiled in the demand for their shares of the Mahadayi river water. Now, the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, who have been at the loggerheads for ages, have resumed their demand for their share of the Cauvery water.
Let us get some context here. Cauvery serves southern Karnataka region, while Mahadayi serves north Karnataka. Struggles by farmers in both the areas are for the use of river water in specific periods of the year – during the traditional farming months. Having said that, these have remained issues in a normal monsoon year. However, this year passions have been ignited due to the shortage of rains and increased farmer suicides leading to agrarian distress.
While one can blame many governments – states and central – of the past, it is a fact that these issues need to be solved to soothe the uneasiness of people in the region. However, this is where the political class has failed miserably.
That Siddaramaiah government has been incompetent is well known. However, in these issues, they have been guilty of misleading the people. Before the Mahadayi issue boiled over, the Siddaramaiah government ministers gave statements early this year, that things are under control and enough water will be provided for the crops. In case of the Cauvery issue, Siddaramaiah government assured people that no water will be released this year due to the drought situation. However, the government did a spectacular U-turn in the Supreme Court, by volunteering to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. This, obviously, did not go well with the people in the farming community. This has led to 2 days of statewide bandhs and umpteen raasta rokos, train rokos and such means of protest.
One would expect the key opposition parties in Karnataka – BJP and JDS – to use this situation to win over the affected people or at least act as a strong opposition to the government. However, both these parties have been reduced to reacting to situations than proactively engaging with farmers. Needless to say all parties are facing the wrath of the people here.
The joker in the pack is Prime Minister Modi. CM Siddaramaiah has repeatedly deflected his responsibilities by blaming the situation on the historic mess (and he is partly right here) and also by writing letters to PM Modi to intervene in resolving these issues. On the river water front atleast, PM Modi is not winning many friends here. He (and/or his ministers) has not given any message or spoken on this topic whatsoever. The local media is left with no option than keep running Siddaramaiah’s letters on the loop. The message is slowly creeping in that Modi is not acting in a fair manner – that he isn’t asking his fellow party CMs in Goa and Maharasthra – to talk about Mahadayi water and neither does he show any courage in countering Amma of Tamil Nadu.
The local BJP leaders – BS Yedyurappa, Pralhad Joshi, CT Ravi and many others – are actively engaged in showcasing projects by the central government. But they are powerless in this entire Mahadayi and Cauvery situation. Other than staging customery protests and supporting farmers, there is nothing they can do. This does not auger well for the next Karnataka elections – where Congress is expected to be routed. JDS isn’t showing any signs of expanding beyond the southern Karnataka region. May be this has convinced BJP that people will vote for them for the lack of credible alternatives. Karnataka may well do that – but then BJP will have no option but to resolve the Mahadayi water dispute at least.
I would rather have preferred Modi take the lead now and then let the Karnataka CM work on bread and butter issues. Repeated calls for bandhs does not auger well for the commerce of the state. Needless to say, the daily labourers are the worst affected in such situations. When efforts are being done to revive the economy, helplessness cannot linger around in one of the economically largest states in the country. If state leaders and Modi, in particular, do not act fast this may turn contagious.