Karnataka: When water politics rule the roost

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 26, 2013 18:55 hrs

Bangalore: Consecutive drought in the state has paved way for innovative methods to woo the voters. In Karnataka, at least four politicians have used drinking water to tap votes.

However, the process started much before the election was declared in the State, so that the election commission did not come on the way of providing drinking water. Besides, it is in the guise of business, charging pittance for supplying mineral water to people living in towns.

All that the candidates have put up is RO plants, which is used in manufacturing mineral water in small way. The water is sold to the people ranging from Rs 0.10 to Rs 0.50 per liter. This helps them to evade election commission vigilance on the scheme.

The scheme started in a small way at Gadag, when former minister Mr H K Patil put up a plant to supply drinking water. The town is facing drinking water problem and even the water that supplied is not potable.

The then Municipal Administration minister Mr Balachandra Jarkiholi was quick to take the lead and put up at least 10 such units in his constituency – Arbhavi. People could come to these centers and purchase water by paying Rs 0.50 per liter, which would go for maintenance.

Then came the former minister Mr Krishnaiah Setty, whose constituency always faced drinking water problem. The water in Malur has sulpher content, leading to health hazards. Mr Setty set up the plant and started supplying drinking water to people by charging Rs 0.30 per liter.

The person who made the best use of this idea was former minister Mr D K Shivakumar, who represents Kanakapura Assembly constituency. He has set up at least 20 such units across the constituency and over six in Kanakapura town itself. For Rs 1, a person will get 10 liters of drinking water.

Mr Shivakumar went one step forward and is starting a water distribution system on the lines of cooking gas distribution system. The permanent customers have to register by paying Rs 25 and they will be provided with two 25-liter water cans. Whenever they want water, they can call the nearby water supply unit. A can of water will be supplied to their doorstep for Rs 5 and the supplier will take back the empty can.

Though the system was supposed to be in place, he had to stop introducing it after his rival Mr PGR Sindhia made a complaint to the Election Commission, citing it as violation of code of conduct.

However, Mr Shivakumar denies that it is election gimmick. "I have spent money on installing the unit and I cannot remove it after the election is over. The entire program started six months ago. After setting up the units, we had to start distribution system. Once the election is over, we will start the distribution system also. I have taken up the program under D K Shivakumar Trust, which is carrying out many programs for people and this is part of it," he added.

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