The decision by Kannada organisations to call for a Karnataka bandh on January 25 and a Bengaluru bandh on February 4 to pressure authorities concerned to resolve the Mahadayi water dispute has triggered a bitter political battle between the ruling Congress and the principal Opposition BJP. While the Congress, on Monday (January 22), called upon people to support the bandh call, the BJP charged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of hatching a conspiracy to scuttle the party’s pre-election rallies on January 25 and February 4 to be addressed by BJP national president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi respectively by “sponsoring” bandh calls on the two days. The Congress claimed that it supported the call for bandh demanding Modi’s intervention to resolve the Mahadayi river water sharing dispute.”Everybody must support the bandh call given by farmer groups and pro-Kannada organisations seeking Modi’s intervention,” Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee working president Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters in Bengaluru.
State BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa has questioned the rationale behind the bandhs and said this was being done by the Congress to counter Shah and Modi. He accused Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of tacitly supporting the bandhs. “What is the need for a statewide bandh? A bandh in the affected areas will suffice. Why should there be a bandh in Mysuru?” he asked.
On the other hand, the Congress has rubbished the charges by the BJP claiming that the bandh has been advanced to January 25 because January 26 is Republic Day. The party also alleged that the Centre has not stood by the people of Karnataka.
Speaking to reporters in Mysuru, BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa said, “the BJP fully supports the protests over the issue of sharing of Mahadayi water. But, bandh is not necessary in the Mysuru region. Bandh should be called only in the affected areas. However, the scheduled programmes of the BJP will not be stopped at any cost.” In Hubballi, Leader of the Opposition in Legislative Assembly Jagadish Shettar said, “Siddaramaiah is afraid of Modi’s visit to the state, and he is the brain behind the bandh call with an ill-intention to disturb the BJP’s Parivarthana Yatra rally in Bengaluru.” Shettar said Rahul Gandhi should make his stand clear on the Mahadayi issue before coming to the state, as the Congress itself is responsible for taking the dispute to the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal. Otherwise, the BJP will stage protest and give a call for bandh when Rahul visits the state, he added.
Earlier, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, in a letter to Yeddyurapa dated December 21, had stated that Goa was willing to consider an amicable settlement on water sharing. Parrikar’s move was widely seen as an attempt to help the BJP in Karnataka ahead of the polls.