BJD rejects Gadkari's proposal to settle river issue through talks

Bhubaneswar: The ruling BJD in Odisha on Thursday rejected Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari's proposal to settle the Mahanadi river water dispute with Chhattisgarh through dialogue.

BJD spokesperson Prashant Nanda said that discussions on the matter would make sense only after the Chhattisgarh government halts construction work on the river.

"There is no point in discussing the issue with Chhattisgarh as the central government has not asked the neighbouring state to stop construction work along the upstream of the river Mahanadi," Nanda told reporters.

The BJD's reaction came minutes after Gadkari, while replying to a series of questions on the Mahanadi river issue in the Lok Sabha, requested the Odisha government to settle the dispute with Chhattisgarh through negotiations.

The Union minister also justified the central government's move to decline the BJD government's proposal to form a tribunal in the case and said records show it only delayed solution.

Nanda said it was a ploy of the BJP-led central government to help Chhattisgarh in carrying out 'illegal' construction work.

"The state government, in view of the interests of Odisha people, cannot go to the negotiation table unless Chhattisgarh stops construction work. Gadkari's request is just a part of a conspiracy hatched against Odisha," he asserted.

Uma Bharati, during her tenure as the water resources minister, had also categorically said that the Centre cannot ask Chhattisgarh to stop project work on Mahanadi, the BJD's Parliamentary Party leader Bharuhari Mahatab said in the Lok Sabha.

The Odisha unit of the BJP, however, welcomed Gadkari's proposal and accused the state's BJD government of politicising the issue.

"As a tribunal takes 20 to 30 years to resolve water disputes between states, it is better to solve the matter through discussion," BJP state vice-president Samir Mohanty said.

The opposition Congress, on its part, blamed both the BJD and the BJP for the dispute.

"The state government had initially allowed the Chhattisgarh government to initiate construction work on the Mahanadi. Now, they are opposing it...The BJP is also politicising the matter as the party is in power in Chhattisgarh," senior Congress leader Sarat Rout said.

Samajwadi Party's state unit president Rabi Behera today wrote to Gadkari, stressing on the need to create a congenial atmosphere for the discussions to happen. -PTI

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