Eight-four-year-old former prime minister and the only one from Karnataka, HD Deve Gowda is on an indefinite hunger strike. He has resolved to drink only water until the Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervenes in the dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery. Protesters and other members of the Janata Dal (Secular).
On Saturday morning, Deve Gowda launched the hunger strike in front of the Gandhi statue in Vidhan Soudha, the seat of the Karnataka administration. For a short while, he was accompanied by Salumarada Thimmakka, a green activist. The 104-year old elderly woman has planted 384 banyan trees along a 4km stretch of the road between Hulikal (Shivamogga district) and Kudur (Raamnagara district).
As he began the hunger strike, Deve Gowda said that he had apprised the Prime Minister of his protest against the Supreme Court’s order on Friday directing the Karnataka government to release 6,000 cusecs of water every day to Tamil Nadu between October 1 and 6.
On Friday, the Supreme Court castigated the Karnataka government for not complying with its orders. It also directed the riparian states – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry – to appoint its nominees for the formation of the Cauvery Management Board by October 4.
Deve Gowda told The News Minute that he was against the formation of a CMB. He said that Karnataka could not release water as it had very little, but added: “An expert committee should visit the reservoirs and look at the water levels. The expert committee should allocate the usage of water for irrigation and drinking.”
However, with the SC’s directive that the CMB should be formed in accordance with directives of the Central Water Disputes Commission, it is unclear whether the PM can intervene as the Karnataka government had been demanding until present.
Ever since the Tamil Nadu government approached the Supreme Court, seeking judicial intervention in implementing the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has demanded the intervention of the union government. Trouble over the final award only crops up during distress years, when Karnataka undergoes drought conditions or has deficient rainfall as in 2016.
Incidentally, the hunger strike comes a day before Gandhi Jayanti – October 2. Asked whether it a hunger strike amounted to exerting unfair pressure, Deve Gowda said he would not stop fighting for the Cauvery. He also hinted that he was being forced to go on a hunger strike at his age.
In the afternoon, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah arrived to meet him to convince him to attend the all-party meeting later in the day. However, he did not say more than that to the media.
Update: Deve Gowda called off the fast after union ministers DV Sadananda Gowda and HN Ananth Kumar assured him that the Prime Minister was aware of the situation. Around 8.30 pm, Gowda broke off the fast after Siddaramaiah offered him cocunut water.