Days after Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s ambivalence on meeting the Supreme Court’s six-week timeframe to set up a regulatory mechanism on the sharing of Cauvery water created disquiet in Tamil Nadu, his junior water resources minister Arjun Ram Meghwal claimed the Centre would honour the deadline. The process to set up the mechanism has already begun, Meghwal said.
Meghwal’s assurance isn’t what Karnataka would have wanted to hear. With the BJP aspiring to capture power in the state in the forthcoming Assembly polls, it could find itself between a rock and a hard place if the ‘scheme’ mandated by the SC to implement its verdict is framed by March 30, the day the deadline ends. An all-party meeting called in by Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah on Wednesday can be expected to oppose the ‘scheme’ tooth and nail.
In TN, an all-party meeting on February 22 decided to meet Narendra Modi but the PM suggested they meet Gadkari first since he holds the water portfolio. Gadkari’s refusal to commit himself made the parties fear for the worst. CM Edappadi K Palaniswami and DMK working president M K Stalin Sunday discussed ways to build pressure on the Centre, with the latter later suggesting that all MPs from the state put in their papers if the deadline is not met.
That was a sly attempt to put the ruling party in a corner, as DMK’s MP count is miniscule compared to AIADMK’s. Minister D Jayakumar promptly told off Stalin. For the Centre, framing a ‘scheme’ should not be difficult as the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in its 2007 award had already done the spadework.
It suggested the creation of a Cauvery Management Board and a Cauvery Water Regulatory Authority, though they were never set up because of political expediency by successive governments. The SC, in its February 16 verdict, said: “We also categorically convey that the need-based monthly release has to be respected.” Can TN now expect to start getting monthly releases from April?
Gadkari prides himself on being a doer. His reputation is now under test.