The Karnataka Legislature seems to have followed Punjab’s precedent in dealing with the Cauvery dispute with neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
In March, the Punjab Assembly adopted a resolution aimed at restraining sharing of water between Punjab and Haryana. The unanimous resolution, that the state “did not have even a drop of water” to share with Haryana, was in fact a step ahead.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal also announced that the land acquired decades ago for constructing the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal will be returned to its owners.
Land owners then brought in heavy equipment machinery and started to fill the dry canal belt, till the Supreme Court intervened and stayed the decision to return land.
Interestingly, while Badal moved the resolution to denotify land acquired for the canal, he had in 1978 issued orders for acquiring the land.
The resolution came after the Supreme Court resumed hearing on the contentious issue in March. The apex court is hearing a Presidential reference after the former Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Bill in July 2004, annulling its water-sharing agreements with other states, thereby stopping the construction of the canal within its territory.
That the Congress lost the Assembly elections in 2007 despite projecting itself as a champion of Punjab’s cause is a different story. While the part of the canal in Haryana was completed over 25 years ago and work on a major part of the canal in Punjab too was completed, but construction work was halted after militants gunned down two senior engineers and massacred about 30 labourers.
As Punjab approaches election year, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) feels the SYL issue could offer it a distinct advantage. The Punjab government has churned out advertisements on its stand and plans to “expose” other political parties for “overlooking” Punjab’s water interests.
Despite the SAD being in coalition with the BJP in Punjab, the BJP-led NDA at the Centre appears to be “favouring” Haryana where it formed its first-ever government. The controversy has also put the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in jeopardy. Political parties in Punjab accuse the AAP of double-talk.
The SAD leadership says that while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal opposed construction of the canal when he was in Punjab, elsewhere he spoke in favour of water for all and his government even filed a affidavit in the apex court favouring Haryana, thereby “betraying” Punjabis.