Tamil Nadu withdrawing from CM-level talks on Mullaperiyar?

Mullaperiyar Baby Dam
Mullaperiyar Baby Dam.

Thiruvananthapuram: Tamil Nadu seems to be withdrawing from the chief minister-level meeting with Kerala on the Mullaperiyar issue, apparently due to political reasons.

Though Tamil Nadu had earlier agreed for the meeting, it has not yet responded even after two months.

Tamil Nadu's Water Resources Department in October announced that the chief minister of the State, M K Stalin, will hold talks with his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan in Chennai. It was also hinted that the meeting would take place by mid-December 2021.

Tamil Nadu, however, has not yet informed the Kerala Water Resources Department a possible date for the meeting. Vijayan's office said it was in touch with Tamil Nadu regarding the meeting.

Tamil Nadu's withdrawal has been attributed to the change in circumstances that prevailed before the controversial order regarding the felling of trees near the baby dam.

Meanwhile, doubts have been raised over Tamil Nadu's willingness to compromise since it has moved the Supreme Court against Kerala withdrawing the order allowing that State to fell the trees.

Further, Kerala angered Tamil Nadu by informing the court that it had released the water through Mullaperiyar's spillway at night without issuing adequate warning, which led to the flooding of houses on the banks of the River Periyar.

The ruling LDF in Kerala is aware that the opposition will take advantage if the State agrees to Tamil Nadu's demands at a possible meeting. Hence, the Front is considering whether to take the initiative for the talks or wait for Tamil Nadu's response.

Vote-bank politics

Besides being a bone of contention between the two south Indian States, Mullaperiyar is also a political issue in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The political fronts in both the States have their eyes on the vote-bank that could be swayed by any decision on the controversial dam.

Tamil Nadu has been seeking permission to raise the water level at Mullaperiyar to 152 feet after felling a few trees next to the baby dam. Kerala, on the other hand, has been demanding a new dam after decommissioning the existing structure at Mullaperiyar.

For the chief ministers of both the States, the Mullaperiyar is an issue of political survival also.

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