Karnataka decides not to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu till September 23

Armed with a consensus from major political parties in the State, the Karnataka Cabinet on Wednesday night decided not to implement the Supreme Court’s directive to release Cauvery water till September 23, when a special session of the State legislature will be convened to take a call on the issue.

The decision that sets the stage for a confrontation with the apex court, was taken by the State Cabinet after an all-party meeting advised the government not to release water to Tamil Nadu as that may result in shortage of drinking water for the State.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs a day to Tamil Nadu from September 21 to 27.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who chaired the all party meeting and Cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening, said "Following the advise by the all-party meeting, the Cabinet has resolved to defer the release of water to Tamil Nadu till September 23.”

Though the principal opposition party, the BJP, abstained from the all-party meeting as it said “it had lost faith in the State government”, its State president B. S. Yeddyurappa welcomed the Cabinet decision to defer the release of water.

Speaking to reporters after the all-party meeting, Mr. Siddaramaiah reiterated that it was an “unimplementable” order. It is learnt that the special legislature session would discuss the apex court directive and adopt a resolution directing the executive not to release Cauvery water.

This, according to legal experts, was seen as the “most viable option” as the State government could then plead before the apex court that it could not implement its order as there was a contrarian directive from the legislature.

Explaining the present position of the State, Congress MPs, speaking at the all-party meeting, said the State’s water storage from all the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin stood at a mere 28 tmcft and the drinking water requirement itself would be 27 tmcft till May 2017. In this backdrop, as expressed before the Supreme Court, the State is not in a position to release water for agricultural purposes in Tamil Nadu, they said.

It is believed that the option of calling a legislature session to adopt a resolution was suggested by the State’s legal team. Earlier in the day, at a meeting of the Cabinet, the pros and cons of “defying” the apex court’s order was discussed in detail. It is also believed that Mr. Siddaramaiah was keen to have the support of all political parties before proceeding further on the matter.

In fact, ahead of the all-party meeting, he had even gone to meet his bete noire, former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda, at the latter’s residence, the first such meeting in a decade. Others who attended the all-party meet included senior Congress leaders M. Mallikarjun Kharge, Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandes and JD (S) State president H.D. Kumaraswamy, among others.