BENGALORE: As north Karnataka braced for a dawn to dusk bandh on Wednesday on the issue of getting Mahadayi river water from Goa to meet the drinking water needs of drought-prone areas, a group of protesting farmers in Bengaluru vent their spleen on BJP state B.S. Yeddyurappa for failing to get them water as promised.
The bandh, called by the group, 'Mahadayi Kalasa Banduri Nala Horata Samanvaya Samiti', is supported by several pro-Kannada organisations including the Kannada film industry. It is likely to have an impact in Gadag, Dharwad, Bagalkote, Hubballi and neighbouring areas. Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said security arrangements were in place.
Karnataka, which has locked horns with Goa on sharing of Mahadayi water, is seeking release of 7.56 tmcft water for the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project. The project is being undertaken to improve drinking water supply to the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad and districts like Belagavi and Gadag. The farmers have laid siege to the BJP office in Bengaluru, refusing to allow any leader entry.
BJP Leader BS Yeddyurappa and senior BJP leader Jagadish Shettar faced the wrath of farmers at the BJP office in Malleshwaram. The BJP veteran had promised water to the farmers by December 15 and had received a letter from Goa CM Manohar Parrikar promising talks. Parrikar has now backtracked after facing stiff opposition at home. BSY's promise of "water in ten days" has left BJP leaders blue in the face, attacking BSY for making promises that could not be kept.
Maha bandh over Mahadayi row
The BJP's strategy to appease Mahadayi farmers by getting Goa Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar to write a letter agreeing to release water to them for drinking, appears to have backfired as North Karnataka is all set to observe a bandh on the issue on Wednesday.
The towns of Nargund and Navalgund have virtually turned into a fortress with the police making elaborate security arrangements to prevent a repeat of last year's violence after the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (MWDT) rejected Karnataka's interim plea to allow it to draw 7 tmcft of water from the river.
The Kalasa Banduri Horata Samiti plans to hold a meeting of all farmers' leaders after the bandh Wednesday evening to chalk out a strategy to intensify the movement. The farmers leaders have already warned they will opt for NOTA during the coming assembly poll to teach the elected representatives of the region a lesson for failing to come to their rescue.
While accusing the BJP of failing to find a solution to the dispute, they demanded that Congress president, Rahul Gandhi too clarify his stand on the dispute and persuade the Congress party of Goa to let that state release the water they need.
"All legislators irrespective of their party affiliation, show unity when they want to hike their own salaries and perks. But they indulge in a political blame game when it comes to resolving the long pending Mahadayi river water dispute. All districts of the Malaprabha river basin will shut down on Wednesday as we are fed up with the indifference of the politicians," said Kalasa Banduri Horata Samiti president, Vijay Kulkarni.
Dr Siddalinga Swamiji of Gadag Tontadarya Mutt too came down hard on all political parties for letting the issue fester for decades without finding a solution.
Hubballi-Dharwad police commissioner, M N Nagaraj said that over 2000 policemen would be deployed in the twin cities and rowdysheeters would be detained, if necessary, as a precaution.