Chennai, Apr 7: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's announcement to put on hold the Hogenakkal drinking water project, till a popular Government was installed in Karnataka, has won him accolades from the people of the two states, but landed him in trouble in the political arena.
While people from various walks of life hailed the octogenarian leader's suggestion that the need of the hour was to maintain peace in the two states, the Opposition parties and DMK's own ally, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), have criticised him for ''surrendering'' the rights of the state. As the people in Tamil Nadu started retaliatory attacks after some outfits in Karnataka targetted the Tamil Sangam and theatres screening Tamil films opposing the Hogenakkal project, the situation threatened to shatter peace and tranquility in both the states, when Mr Karunanidhi called for patience.
His message created the right impact on the turbulent situation and led to calm in both the states, thanks to the positive response by leaders in Karnataka, especially former Chief Minister S M Krishna.
After the BJP in Karnataka upped the ante, opposing the project, buses were burnt, shops were attacked and cinemas were closed. The ''anti-social'' elements in both sides were suddenly left with no reason to continue the violence after Mr Karunanidhi called for peace.
But the five-time Chief Minister had to pay a price in politics for the move as the Opposition AIADMK, joined by its ally, the MDMK, launched a blistering attack against him for ''surrendering'' the rights of the state on the directive of the Congress high command.
The move also did not go well with his party's ally, PMK, whose founder-leader S Ramadoss faulted Mr Karunanidhi for holding back the project.
DMK's other ally, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, headed by Thol Thirumavalavan, announced that the Tamils Protection Movement would go ahead with its agitation, condemning the attack on Tamils in Karnataka on April 9. Stating that the Tamil Nadu Government should go ahead with the implementation of the project, aimed at providing quality drinking water to the people in the backward Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts where the ground water had high flouride content, he said that till the project was implemented, the Centre should deploy Army in Karnataka to provide protection to the Tamils.
Mr Karunanidhi's appeal to keep patience on the issue till the general elections in Karnataka were over, also did not cut much ice with the AIADMK, MDMK and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), headed by actor-politician Vijayakant.
While the MDMK announced an agitation, led by party General Secretary Vaiko this evening near the Chepauk Guest House in the city, the DMDK announced that the party would go ahead with its agitation in Dharmapuri on April 10.
The Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu also tried to give an impression that the DMK Government had offered to drop the project in view of opposition from Karnataka, forcing Mr Karunanidhi to clarify that he had only deferred the execution of the project till the assumption of a popular Government after next month's elections in Karnataka and not scrapped the Rs 1,334 crore project.
Stating that the Chief Minister's announcement was shocking, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and Mr Vaiko charged the DMK leader with making the announcement to help the Congress in the coming Assembly elections in Karnataka.
The Chief Minister's peace move was, however, commended by the Left parties, the Dravidar Kazhagam and Traders' Federation, which had suspended their agitations and decided to wait till the DMK Government found an amicable solution after holding talks with the new Government in Karnataka. With the vexed Cauvery issue taking a back seat, thanks to good rains in the catchment areas and copious inflows into the Mettur dam, the Hogenakkal issue caught everyone by surprise as opposition to the drinking water project was least expected.
Tamil Nadu had just completed a round of battle of wits with Andhra Pradesh over the Palar issue and Kerala over the Mullaiperiyar dam issue.
While Andhra Pradesh was insisting on building a check dam across river Palar, which would deprive water to people in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala was refusing to allow Tamil Nadu to raise the height of the Mullaiperiyar Dam, thus disallowing people in the southern districts of the State from using the water for irrigation.