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Satluj-Yamuna Link: same parties sing different tunes in Punjab & Haryana

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:56 IST

The issue

  • Punjab and Haryana are currently locked in a dispute over water-sharing
  • The issue pertains to the construction of the Satluj-Yamuna Link canal that will share Punjab\'s water with Haryana

The different tunes

  • Leaders from the Congress, BJP and SAD in both states are singing different tunes
  • While the Punjab leaders are not in favour of water-sharing, Haryana leaders want to protect its interests

More in the story

  • Governor Solanki is in charge of both states - and said different things to the two Assemblies
  • How the SAD has actually played it smart

A situation peculiar to the Indian polity is currently brewing in Punjab and Haryana - where the compulsions of local politics and support base override ideological issues.

The two states are at loggerheads over water-sharing from Punjab's rivers, and the construction of the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. And the key political players - Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP - are singing different tunes in different places, even as their national leaderships continue to keep an ambiguous stand on the matter.

Read: There's a Cong-SAD-AAP war in Punjab over sharing water with Haryana

The present round of political battles started when the Supreme Court resumed its hearing on the presidential reference pertaining to Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, earlier this month. The legislation, enacted by Congress's Captain Amarinder Singh in his time as CM, aimed at terminating Punjab's water-sharing agreements with neighbouring states, thus jeopardising the construction of the canal.

Congress stands for states' interests

The Congress has been the most vocal in both states. In Punjab, state party chief Amarinder fired the first shot in the latest feud over the issue, when he challenged his opponents to come clean.

With the state going to the polls a few months from now, Amarinder launched the offensive with an eye on brownie points, after the Centre reportedly told the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that it stood by the earlier Supreme Court judgements and favoured that the work on the canal should go ahead.

But the very same party in Haryana has come forward to oppose any move that goes against the interests of the state. Key leaders of the party - state president Ashok Tanwar, Congress legislative party leader Kiran Chaudhary and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda - have been opposing Punjab's stand, which includes that of their own party on the issue.

Congress, BJP and SAD leaders are all backing their own states' interests over ideological issues

Kiran Chaudhary said: "We are ready to resign from the Assembly and also the Parliament if the government led by Manohar Lal Khattar in the state takes the lead on this issue."

She attacked Khattar for being soft, and was responding to the state government delegation meeting Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking the Centre's intervention.

The Congress has also submitted a memorandum to Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, who also holds the charge for Punjab, to intervene on this issue, in order to avoid a Constitutional crisis.

BJP's dilemma

The BJP has also come out with different voices on the issue. The party's dilemma is greater as compared to the Congress, because while it is in power at both the Centre as well as in Haryana, and is also in alliance with the ruling SAD in Punjab.

Just like the Congress, the party is supporting the SAD stand on the issue in Punjab, while its very own government in Haryana is opposing the same.

Also read- Treading water: how river-sharing feud has fired up Punjab's parties

Khattar and his party leaders have even approached the Home Ministry on the issue. The Khattar government also submitted a memorandum to Solanki after an all-party meeting that was not attended by Congress leaders.

The BJP has taken a stand in the Supreme Court favouring the construction of the canal, which has been termed as 'pro-Haryana' by the political parties in Punjab.

SAD plays it smart

The SAD has played a masterstroke by passing a resolution on not accepting any 'injustice' on the sharing of river waters. It has also decided to de-notify the land acquired for SYL construction in the state. The government, led by Parkash Singh Badal, passed "The Punjab Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016" on Monday.

Ironically, the all-party meeting called by Khattar on the issue reportedly had representation from Akalis in Haryana, with the state president Sharanjit Singh Sodha attending the deliberations.

AAP in Catch-22 situation

Even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has emerged as a major political force in Punjab, will not be able to escape this Catch-22 situation. Observers say that while its leaders are expected to take a 'pro-Punjabi' stance in Punjab, it will have to support SYL construction in Delhi, as the capital needs more water.

One Governor, two versions

The airing of divergent views on the issue does not end with the political parties alone.

Governor Solanki also gave two different versions in his address to the two state Assemblies -- the simple explanation being that the Governor's speech is written by the state government.

In his address to the Haryana Assembly on the opening day of its budget session, Solanki said the Haryana government was committed towards obtaining its legitimate share of the Ravi-Beas waters and completion of the SYL canal. The concerted efforts made by the government to secure early hearing of the presidential reference, which has been pending for the last more than 11 years, have borne fruit and the matter has now been taken up for regular hearing by the Supreme Court.

Governor Solanki, in charge of both states, gave different addresses on the issue in both Assemblies

The same governor , on the opening day of the budget session of the Punjab Assembly a week earlier had said that if the reliance on tube well irrigation water continued, the state could turn into a desert in the near future.

"The only solution to the danger that looms large over our heads lies in Punjab's right on the waters of its rivers being safeguarded," he said.

Solanki added that the Punjab government had consistently been seeking a solution to the river water issue through the implementation of the nationally and internationally-accepted riparian principle on the distribution of waters.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 15 March 2016, 7:18 IST