Cauvery dispute turned hurdle for Kharge

MP Mallikarjun. - Photo/ Prashanth HG

The Cauvery river water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka came as a hurdle to the Congress' earlier plan to send senior Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge as Rajya Sabha member from Tamil Nadu.

Soon after Rajya Sabha polls for Tamil Nadu was announced, the Congress leaders approached DMK requesting to spare one seat for Kharge from their quota from Tamil Nadu. However, DMK supremo M K Stalin told the Congress leaders that they can't accommodate any Karnataka leaders from Tamil Nadu due to Cauvery dispute.

Since both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are fighting each other on sharing of river water, sending a person from Karnataka to Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu would not be possible, Stalin was learnt to have said.

"If we send Kharge to Rajya Sabha, it would be difficult to face the public as well as political opponents whenever Cauvery water sharing disputes arise," Stalin was learnt to have said, according to sources. Finally, out of six seats, three from DMK - advocate P Wilson, trade union leader M Shanmugam and its pre-poll ally MDMK Chief Vaiko - were elected unopposed. 

A seat in Rajasthan is now vacated with the demise of BJP member Madan Lal Saini. The Congress, which is the ruling party in desert state may fill this seat by sending former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Singh’s term as Upper House member from Assam ended on June 14 this year. As such Kharge may have to wait till next biennial elections to the Upper House in April 2020 when 54 MPs retire.

It is not the first time that the inter-state rivalry between the two southern states created such a scenario.

Earlier, when senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah was the chief minister of Karnataka, he also opposed sending former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram from the state citing Cauvery dispute in 2016. Subsequently, Chidambaram entered Upper House from Maharashtra.

There are, however, several instances when Tamil Nadu leaders entered Upper House from Karnataka - like late business tycoon M A M Ramaswamy who entered Rajya Sabha from Karnataka with Janata Dal (S) in 2004, R Ramakrishna, Tamilian and a Rajasthan cadre IAS officer in 2012, from BJP. Most recently, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was also elected from Karnataka on BJP ticket in 2017.

Indeed, all the three leaders faced questions from the public from both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka public regarding their her stand on Cauvery.

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