The last time when such a bilateral meeting took place in Chennai was on January 5, 1997 . The bilateral talks of 1996-1997 though did not lead to any solution. The two States went back to the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, which itself had been constituted in June 1990 on the directions of the Supreme Court a month earlier.
When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa meets her Karnataka counterpart Jagadish Shettar in Bangalore on Thursday, it will be after a gap of over 15 years that Chief Ministers of the two States will have bilateral talks on the vexed Cauvery dispute.
Announcing her visit, an official release issued here on Tuesday stated that this was in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s suggestion on Monday that the two leaders meet and resolve the Cauvery dispute.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Government, seeking release of the Cauvery water as per a distress-sharing formula. The case would come up before the court again for hearing on Friday.
The last time such a meeting took place was in Chennai on January 5, 1997 when M. Karunanidhi and J.H. Patel were Chief Ministers. In fact, that meeting was the fifth and final round of talks the two had since August 1996. By coincidence, at that time too, it was the Supreme Court that had prompted the two States to hold negotiations at the level of Chief Ministers.
The bilateral talks of 1996-1997 though did not lead to any solution. The two States went back to the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, which itself had been constituted in June 1990 on the directions of the Supreme Court a month earlier.
Again, it was the failure of 26 rounds of negotiations between 1968 and 1990 that led to adjudicatory proceedings before the Tribunal. Of these rounds of talks, 21 meetings took place in the presence of the Union Minister for Irrigation and five were only between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
After the interim order was passed by the Tribunal in June 1991, meetings involving the two principal States of the Cauvery Basin became fewer and fewer.
After the notification of the order in December 1991, a meeting of Chief Ministers of four Basin States, including Kerala and Puducherry, took place in New Delhi on February 17, 1992 at the initiative of the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. Ms Jayalalithaa was in her first stint of Chief Ministership and the meeting ended in failure as there was no assurance on the implementation of the order.
The dispute again reached a flashpoint in 1995 as rains failed. This time, Rao got the National Water Resources Council convened on February 6, 1996 and Ms. Jayalalithaa and H.D. Deve Gowda, who had become Karnataka Chief Minister, clashed over the convening of the meeting.
Two years later, in August 1998, the then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Chief Ministers of the four Basin States met in New Delhi and arrived at a consensus to frame a scheme for the implementation of the order. Consequently, the Cauvery River Authority was set up.
Asked about the likely outcome of Thursday’s meeting, an expert, who is not oblivious of the history of negotiations over the Cauvery dispute, replied that one had to go with a “positive frame of mind.”