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BJP & Congress seek to shut each other down in Karnataka with a bandh for a bandh

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With ruling Congress supporting bandhs on days Amit Shah and PM Modi are due to address rallies in the state, BJP has warned that it will call a bandh on the day of Rahul Gandhi’s trip.

Bengaluru: Every action will have an equal and opposite reaction, or at least that is what the ruling Congress party and the challenger BJP seem to be telling each other in Karnataka about three months before the state elects a new legislative assembly.

The latest tussle between the two parties is over bandhs or general shutdowns.The BJP has “warned” the Congress that if the ruling party tries to disrupt the political rally of BJP national president Amit shah on Thursday or that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 4 February, it will call for a bandh on the day Congress president Rahul Gandhi visits the state.

The warning from the BJP comes on the back of the state’s Congress unit extending its support to the call for a bandh from pro-Kannada organisations led by Vatal Nagaraj, on the days Shah and Modi are visiting the state. The protest is against the Prime Minister “not intervening” to resolve the Mahadayi river water sharing dispute between Karnataka and Goa.

Traditionally it has been the BJP that has supported bandhs called by pro-Kannada organisations, but this time its leaders are crying foul. They say that it is a state-sponsored bandh, and an attempt to disrupt the BJP’s pre-election rallies.

“Vatal Nagaraj has called this bandh after being instigated by chief minister Siddaramaiah. It is nothing but a ‘state sponsored’ bandh which is politically motivated,” senior BJP leader and former chief minister Jagdish Shettar told ThePrint.

“They are not genuine. I am warning the chief minister and the Congress party that if this is their attitude, then when Rahul Gandhi comes to the state it will become necessary for us to call for a bandh.”

The call for a bandh on two days is to protest against the Goa government’s stand on the Mahadayi water sharing issue. Several protests have taken place in northern Karnataka and a war of words on social media too broke out between the water resources ministers of both states accusing each other of wrongdoing.

“In Tamil Nadu, when it comes to bandh calls over the issue of Cauvery, we always saw political parties stand united. The opposition would wholeheartedly and unconditionally back the then chief minister Jayalalithaa,” said Nagaraj.

“The BJP leaders are calling this state sponsored. What do they mean? Is this some kind of advertisement or a sports programme for people to sponsor? Who is Amit Shah? What has he done for Mahadayi until now?”

Asked if the party was prepared for a bandh when Rahul Gandhi visits Karnataka, state Congress working president Dinesh Gundurao said, “the bandh is to get the attention of the Prime Minister Modi on the issue, what has Rahul Gandhi got to do with it?”

“The PM has the authority to convene a meeting and try to resolve the issue. If Rahul Gandhi asks the Goa chief minister to come, the Maharashtra CM to come, will they come? It is the constitutional post that is being questioned, he is not the BJP’s prime minister, he is the prime minister of the country and we need answers.”

The Mahadayi water sharing dispute has become a hot-button issue since the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa, read out a letter written by Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar at a public rally in Hubballi.

Parrikar’s letter said that he was ready for talks with Karnataka. But the BJP was pushed on the back foot when Siddaramaiah said that the letter from a chief minister of one state should be addressed to his counterpart of another state on such issues.

The development also caused Karnataka’s farmers to protest before the office of the BJP and seek water as Yeddyurappa had promised. The BJP countered with a protest at the Congress office.

With the Mahadayi issue going out of control, the BJP asked Rahul Gandhi to direct the Congress in Goa to agree to sharing water with Karnataka.

The bandh calls have now given the issue a whole new dimension, with Nagaraj saying, “a bandh for a bandh is nothing but opportunistic politics”.

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