On Sutlej-Yamuna Link, BJP has three stands to suit its convenience

 This is one issue on which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is divided. It has taken three different stands on the sharing of Punjabs river waters with neighbouring states.

The BJP, which is in power at the Centre, has maintained a neutral stand on the water-sharing issue between Punjab and Haryana through the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. The Narendra Modi government, in its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, spelled out its neutral stand, saying the issue has to be resolved by both states.

Following the recent Supreme Court verdict holding that the Punjab Termination of Water Agreement Act, 2004, was illegal, and that Haryana’s claim for more water was legitimate, the BJP has emerged a divided house.

In Haryana, where the BJP has its own government for the first time, the party is demanding an immediate resolution of the issue and implementation of the water-sharing agreement. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has urged the Centre and the Punjab government to ensure the water-sharing agreement is implemented after the Supreme Court verdict.

Haryana’s outspoken Health and Sports Minister Anil Vij has struck a more aggressive posture, stating that Haryana will do everything, including making use of the army and paramilitary forces, to get the state its share of water from Punjab.

Though the SYL issue has been lingering between both states for nearly four decades, the controversy has been given a fresh lease of life following the Supreme Court order and the stand taken by the Punjab government and the political parties of the state, which is headed for assembly polls in less than three months.

The Punjab government, headed by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, has made it clear that “not a single drop of water from Punjab will be allowed to flow to other states” and that Punjab was “ready for any sacrifice on this issue”.

The Punjab BJP, which is an alliance partner of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and has been in power since 2007, has made it clear that no water from Punjab will be allowed to be shared with other states, especially Haryana.

As things stand, the situation has pitted the Punjab BJP against its Haryana counterpart while the BJP at the Centre is refusing to take sides and is content with playing a neutral role. No effort is being made by any of these sides to resolve the sensitive and contentious issue.

The Haryana assembly had recently passed a resolution condemning Chief Minister Badal for his statement that he will not accept the Supreme Court’s SYL verdict.

Haryana is seeking its share of 3.5 maf (million acre feet) of water from rivers flowing through Punjab. But Punjab, citing its own depleting water table, has refused to share any more water saying that it was against the accepted riparian principle.

The three major rivers in Punjab are the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi. Haryana has only one big river, the Yamuna.

Both the state governments, at the intervention of the Centre, will have to initiate talks to resolve the issue. Otherwise, the political bickering will continue, even without a single drop of water flowing in the SYL canal, for decades to come.