BJP's river interlinking project turns fodder for Cong

BJP's river interlinking project turns fodder for Cong

The BJP’s pet project of interlinking rivers in the country is turning out to be fodder for the opposition Congress in Punjab. 

The Congress is churning this “priority agenda of the BJP” into a poll issue accusing the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its ally the BJP of trying to forfeit Punjab’s riparian rights.

Water issues with other states in Punjab has always remained contentious, both in rhetoric and law. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s campaign lays down interlinking of rivers as a priority agenda which could not see the light of the day post its conceptualisation during the regime of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Congress campaign managers have drawn out a strategy to flog this issue to the hilt as an “anti-farmer” plan that could turn “Punjab into a desert state”. 

Interestingly, the SAD, too, is not amused with the BJP plans on interlinking rivers. The issue could eventually turn even more contentious between the two in case the National Democratic Alliance wrests power at the Centre.   

Minister of State for External Affairs and Congress’ Patiala candidate Preneet Kaur says Punjab will turn into a “barren land” if the rivers are linked. The Indian Farmers Association, which has lent support to the Congress in the elections, is reaching out to farmers in the state urging them to denounce the BJP for proposing to interlink rivers.

Preneet’s husband and former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Congress candidate against BJP leader Arun Jaitley from Amritsar, decided to annul all water sharing agreements with Haryana and Rajasthan by passing a resolution in the Assembly during his reign. 

The Congress campaign is projecting the party as a “champion of farmers issues” having taken what Preneet Kaur describes as a “bold and visionary decision” in the interest of the state and farmers. 

In a statement issued on Friday, Preneet Kaur raised the issue again saying Punjab has the distinction of making the country surplus in wheat production. 

“I am dismayed at the double standards adopted by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who on the one hand claims to be the messiah of farmers and on the other is talking of joining the rivers,” she said.

Capt Singh, too, has been accusing the ruling SAD government and the BJP of double standards on farmers issue. 

In an open letter to Narendra Modi on Thursday, Capt Singh said: “Let me remind you of your promise about the Punjabi farmers in Gujarat when you had publicly committed, albeit vaguely, that nobody will be forced out of Gujarat. Everybody in Punjab assumed that your government will withdraw the appeal against the Gujarat High Court verdict that goes in their (farmers) favour. Till now, your government has not done anything.” 

On interlinking of rivers, the SAD is maintaining that the BJP meant to save the river water that flows into the sea, which was not applicable to Punjab since it was a riparian state. 

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