Bengaluru: Buoyed by a recent bypoll victory, the Congress in Karnataka plans to keep up the tempo with a flurry of political activities.
In a joint address Sunday, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president D.K. Shivakumar and Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka assembly Siddaramaiah announced a padayatra over the Mekedatu drinking water project.
The Mekedatu is a proposed Rs 9,000-crore drinking water project over the Cauvery, which is yet to receive approval from the Cauvery Water Management Authority due to staunch opposition from neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
The Congress is hoping to use the issue to “expose” the BJP’s poll promise of “double engine growth”.
“The BJP in Karnataka went to polls in 2018 promising double engine growth if it was elected to power, since the party was in power even at the Centre. Now that they are in power in both places, why are they not able to implement Mekedatu that ensures drinking water to Bengaluru?” Saleem Ahmed, the KPCC working president, told The Print, adding that the padayatra was to expose this “hypocrisy” of the BJP.
“The padayatra will be held in the first week of December and will cover over 100 km. We will begin our padayatra from Mekedatu and walk towards Bengaluru. Mekedatu is proposed to be built on our land, with our money and to store our share of Cauvery water,” Shivakumar told reporters Sunday.
The decision came following a meeting of senior Congress leaders Sunday to strategise the party’s activities in the run-up to the next assembly elections and local body elections. Given the results the Congress’ attack on BJP yielded in Hangal bypoll, results of which were declared on 2 November, the party is hoping to cash in on the fervour.
Why the Mekedatu?
Despite environmental concerns being flagged over the project, the Congress has chosen to go on a padayatra demanding implementation of the project.
With this, the Congress hopes to recreate the impact of its 2010 padayatra — ‘Bellary Chalo’ — on the issue of illegal mining and corruption against the then B.S. Yediyurappa-led BJP government.
The padayatra set the tone for Congress’ poll pitch in the 2013 election when the party trumped BJP to come to power.
Other than the fact that the Mekedatu project received ‘in-principle’ approval under the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, the party has also picked it given the sticky situation that it has landed the BJP in.
In August this year, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had said that Karnataka’s Detailed Project Report cannot be taken up for further assessment in response to a question in Lok Sabha. He contended that Karnataka needed other riparian states’ consent for the project — a stand contradictory to one taken by Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai as well as his predecessor B.S. Yediyurappa. The Congress and the JDS had used the Union minister’s response to attack the BJP in the State.
In the run-up to Shekhawat’s response, BJP’s leaders from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had engaged in a war of words over the project. The BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit chief K. Annamalai had even held a one-day symbolic fast against the project, which Bommai termed “politically motivated.”
The issue had also landed BJP national General Secretary C.T. Ravi — who hails from Karnataka but is in charge of Tamil Nadu — in a spot.
“C.T. Ravi had said he is pro-India on the matter. We are pro-Kannada and pro-Karnataka on the issue of Mekedatu,” Siddaramaiah told reporters Sunday, putting in a nutshell why the party has picked Mekedatu for its padayatra.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)