Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah on Friday accused the Central government of unilaterally announcing the river-linking project in the Union Budget without taking Karnataka into confidence, which, he said, was against the basic structure of the Constitution and federalism.
He said Tamil Nadu is likely to gain benefit from the proposed project. Therefore, the Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly urged the State government to immediately call for an all-party meet to discuss and send the State's unanimous view to the Centre in this regard.
He expressed Congress's opposition to the project and termed the attitude of the Centre as dictatorial. "The Finance Minister in the Union Budget has announced a proposal for linking southern rivers and this project is probably not viable. Nirmala Sitharaman, the Finance Minister, is from Tamil Nadu and hence I feel she has proposed it in the budget," Siddaramaiah said.
Speaking to reporters here, he said it appears that no discussion on river-linking has been held with Karnataka."By linking rivers, Tamil Nadu will get more water. How much water will be available from each river and what is the allocation to each State, these have not been discussed with Karnataka. Without discussion, without getting the consent of the State, if gone ahead, it will lead to inter-State water disputes," he said.
Presenting the budget earlier this week, Sitharaman said the draft detailed project report (DPR) of five river links, namely Damanganga-Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Godavari-Krishna, Krishna-Pennar, and Pennar-Cauvery, have been finalised.Implementation would be done once a consensus is reached among the beneficiary-States, she said.
Of these projects, the Godavari-Krishna, Krishna-Pennar and Pennar-Cauvery river-linking projects concern Karnataka. Siddaramaiah urged the Centre to consult all southern States by calling for a meeting of political parties and Chief Ministers, preferably in Karnataka, in this regard, and place all the information before the people.
"States should know how much water they will get...we are a council of States, we are in a federal system, not dictatorship. Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps making speeches that we are into cooperative federalism, but the conduct of his government is against it," he said and added that such unilateral decisions represent a dictatorial attitude, which is condemnable.
"They (Centre) have said they will go ahead once all States agree with the DPR, which is still under discussion. When the DPR is being prepared, our State's share has to be decided in the right way. This is our stand...," the Chief Minister said.
Noting that the project has been discussed at the National Water Development Agency, Siddaramaiah said it has been estimated that 347 tmc water would be available by linking rivers, which can be used to provide water to the southern States.
"In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and other States, more 55 per cent of the land available for cultivation are irrigated while in Karnataka it is only 30 per cent. After Rajasthan we have more area under the dryland. So, Karnataka should get justice," he said.
Demanding detailed discussions before the commencement of the river-linking project, the Congress Legislature Party leader further said Karnataka is also partner of the project, as Cauvery originates from the State flows here before flowing into neighbouring Tamil Nadu and then to the sea.
"Tamil Nadu will get more than 90 per cent of the benefit from river-linking while the benefit for Karnataka is less," he said. The idea of river-linking is not new and the plan to join rain-dependent Cauvery river with Ganga, a perennial river, had started during the Morarji Desai government.
Hitting out at the BJP government in Karnataka and 25 MPs from the ruling party for remaining silent on the river-linking proposal in the Budget, Siddaramaiah urged the State government to immediately call for an all party meeting to explain the advantages and disadvantages. Alleging that the Centre is biased towards Karnataka, he questioned as to why the Centre was not giving equal importance to give clearance to the Mekedatu project, which is for drinking water purpose.
With inputs from PTI.