Cauvery verdict a timely boost for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah ahead of election

MYSURU: The Supreme Court’s verdict on Friday in the decades-old Cauvery water dispute, giving Karnataka an additional 14.75 tmcft of water, has come as a timely boost for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the government ahead of the assembly elections.

The Siddaramaiah government, which had heaved a sign of relief with copious monsoon last year after three years of drought, has now been bailed out from the Cauvery crisis just ahead of the summer months.
The judgment could not have come at a better time for Siddaramaiah as it has disarmed the opposition parties. The ruling Congress had feared the outcome of the final verdict as the judgments in the past, including the 2007 verdict of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal, had gone against the state and had resulted in spontaneous outburst among the people. However, Friday’s verdict, that has turned out to be a partial relief for Karnataka, will definitely help in creating a feel-good factor among the voters as the state heads for polls in a couple of months.

The court verdict, allocating 14.75 tmcft of water for Bengaluru’s drinking water needs, is also a good sign as it falls outside the Cauvery basin. The grim situation and continued water scarcity would have hit investments and infrastructure development in Bengaluru as many would have had second thoughts on setting up shop in the city. The Congress may claim credit for the verdict as getting 14.75 tmc ft of additional water is as good as constructing a new reservoir. But the people of Cauvery basin will be keenly watching how Siddaramaiah will expert pressure on the Union government not to go head with setting up the Cauvery Monitoring Committee.

The situation would have been totally different and would have put Siddaramaiah and his government under the carpet if the apex court judgment had gone against the state. There would have been a strong possibility of unrest in old Mysuru region. The opposition, particularly JD(S) which has a strong presence in the region, would have made it a poll issue and dragged the Cauvery issue for a couple of weeks in the run-up to the election.  Siddaramaiah, blamed for releasing water to Tamil Nadu rather than for irrigation in Cauvery basin, won back the confidence of the people when he rejected Tamil Nadu plea’s for water. He took opposition parties into confidence over both Cauvery and Mahadayi issues, personally called on legal expert and Karnataka counsel Fali Nariman and his team that had strongly opposed setting up of a Cauvery Management Board, and also against the Tribunal award fixing the quantum of monthly water release to Tamil Nadu without taking into account the availability of water in the reservoirs. Congress may make use of the favourable verdict to counter JD(S) which has a strong presence in the Cauvery basin. It is also expected to vigorously pursue the Mekedatu reservoir project that was strongly opposed by the Tamil Nadu government.

Political commentator Harish Ramaswamy observed that the verdict will go in favour of Siddaramaiah and the Congress as regards perception and propoganda. The government took a risk by not releasing water, facing contempt and presenting a judicious argument to convince the court that Bengaluru, a globally recognised city, needs adequate drinking water.

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