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July 20, 1998


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Centre may propose draft scheme on Cauvery

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

With the AIADMK warning of "disastrous consequences" and Karnataka members in the ruling coalition too taking a tough posture, the Centre is likely to approach the Supreme Court with a draft scheme when the inter-state Cauvery waters dispute comes up for hearing on Tuesday.

Indications are that the draft, based on the one circulated by the Centre among the four southern governments, may tilt towards the Tamil Nadu demand for 205 tmc ft waters, as per the Cauvery Waters Tribunal's interim award.

"The Centre only had the duty and the right to notify the interim award, and a centrally-negotiated scheme is outside the purview of the Inter-State River Waters Dispute Act," says a Tamil Nadu official. "But having taken that course when H D Deve Gowda was prime minister, the Centre, now under A B Vajpayee's prime ministership, may report to the court its inability to arrive at a consensus, and await its orders."

"Unlike the demand for the dismissal of the DMK government, which was seen mostly as a political move, AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha's tough talking on the Cauvery issue has many takers in the state," says one source.

"This may be a better issue for her to bring down the Vajpayee government," says he. "But then, even an alternative government at the Centre cannot produce a solution, overnight. At best, like the Jain Commission's interim report last year, the Cauvery row could give Jayalalitha an excuse to bring down the Vajpayee government, nothing more."

Other sources, however, say that Jayalalitha's strongly-worded statement on Sunday, which also ridiculed DMK Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and Tamil Maanila Congress leader G K Moopanar, for shedding 'crocodile tears' on the Cauvery issue, was aimed at deriving maximum political mileage when the Centre's proposals are made public.

"It is like the Pondicherry statehood issue last week. She threatened a rally first, and converted it into a celebration when the Centre conceded what was even otherwise expected," the afore-quoted source said.

Defence Minister George Fernandes called on both Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha in Madras on Saturday. Fernandes at Madras and BJP general secretary M Venkaiah Naidu at Delhi told newsmen that a solution to the Cauvery issue would be found in "one or two days". Later, Fernandes, a native of Karnataka and friendly with both Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, also had occasion to meet Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel on Sunday.

Should the Centre fail to meet the AIADMK's expectations on the Cauvery row, the party may withdraw its two ministers from the Union government. Its Pattali Makkal Katchi ally with a lone minister of state is expected to follow suit. But the likely decision of Thamizhaga Rajiv Congress leader and Petroleum Minister Vazhappadi K Ramamurthy, who had quit the P V Narasimha Rao government, on the Cauvery issue in 1991, is not known.

But the AIADMK and its allies -- even the MDMK which has fallen out of favour with Jayalalitha, may continue to back the Vajpayee government from outside.

Speaking to reporters in Madras on Monday, Jayalalitha said the AIADMK and its allies would chalk out its future course of action after the Centre's response to their demand for notiification of the draft scheme for sharing of the Cauvery waters was known. She parried a question whether she had given an ultimatum to the Centre on the Cauvery issue.

Earlier, Jayalalitha admitted into her party over 1,000 workers belonging to the DMK and the Tamil Maanila Congress.

She said many of those who joined were DMK workers from the Chepauk constituency in Madras, represented by Karunanidhi. "When Karunanidhi is unable to protect the interests of even his own constituency, how can he protect the interests of the state?" she asked.

Additional reportage: UNI

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