Panaji: Opposition parties in Goa have closed ranks to demand Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s resignation for “not taking a stand” over the Mhadei issue, days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks that the BJP has resolved the dispute and given the river water to Karnataka caused a flutter in the coastal state.
As the Congress, AAP, TMC, and Goa Forward Party, sought to corner Sawant, who belongs to BJP, the latter on Monday said there will be no compromise on the Mhadei issue and that his government was working to protect the river water from being diverted.
Goa and neighbouring Karnataka have been engaged in a tussle over sharing of the river water for several years. Goa has often accused Karnataka of proceeding unilaterally in the matter by ignoring pacts.
Speaking to reporters, Sawant said Goa has a strong legal standing in the Supreme Court on the issue.
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“There will be no compromise on it and the government has been working to protect Mhadei river water from being diverted,” he said.
While Sawant’s reaction was guarded on the sensitive issue, his cabinet colleague Nilesh Cabral condemned Shah’s remarks and said if the (Bharatiya Janata Party’s) central leadership does not support Goa on the Mhadei issue, then the state can take legal recourse to stop the diversion.
Addressing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rally at Belagavi in poll-bound Karnataka on Saturday, Shah said, “I want to tell you (people) that the BJP, by resolving the long-standing dispute between both states, has given Mhadei water to Karnataka and, thereby, ensured farmers in several districts here are benefited”.
Latching on to the remarks, the Trinamool Congress on Monday questioned Sawant’s “silence” and sought clarification from the BJP and the state government over Shah’s remarks.
TMC Goa’s joint convenor Samil Volvaikar said Sawant has not taken a stand on the issue, especially after Shah’s statement “which has mentioned that the Mhadei water would be diverted and the Goa government has given nod to it”.
“The BJP government at the Centre and Goa have sold off the mother Mhadei, our lifeline, to win the upcoming Karnataka elections,” Volvaikar alleged and wondered why Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t refer the crucial Mhadei issue in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ address a day before.
Cabral said as the Goa chief minister has not given any consent to divert the Mhadei river water, he didn’t know what Shah is talking about.
He said a delegation from Goa will ask about this statement when they next meet Shah.
When queried on whether he condemned what Shah said, Cabral asserted, “Of course, I condemn the statement. We are not against usage of the water within the basin but we will never allow the water to be diverted outside.” The award given by the Inter-State Water Dispute Tribunal on Mhadei was for “drinking water”, said Cabral, who is the Public Works Department minister in the Sawant cabinet.
“I don’t know from where this statement (of Shah) comes which speaks about water to be diverted for irrigation purposes,” he added.
Meanwhile, a senior official on Monday said a preliminary meeting of the Goa Assembly’s House Committee on the Mhadei issue will be held on February 8.
The panel, headed by State Water Resources Department Minister Subhash Shirodkar, was formed during the recently-held Assembly session to discuss the Mhadei issue.