Bengaluru: Awaiting the outcome of a meeting convened by the Centre, Karnataka Cabinet on Wednesday decided to defer till Thursday a decision on release of 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu as per the Supreme Court direction.
"We have deferred decision on release till tomorrow... We will see the outcome (of the meeting) and then decide on the next step," Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told reporters here after a marathon sitting of the Cabinet preceded by an all-party meeting.
He said the government would explain the ground realities, including the storage levels in the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin, and the state's difficulties at tomorrow's meeting of the two riparian states convened by the Centre to thrash out a solution amid the raging row.
"I will attend the meeting and put forward our case. Let us see what will come out of the meeting," Siddaramaiah said, a day after the Supreme Court asked Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water in the next three days despite the unanimous assembly resolution to use the water only for drinking purpose.
The apex court had also called for a political solution to the "impasse" by convening of a meeting of the Chief Ministers of both states and the Centre.
"We are sure that the state of Karnataka shall obey the order without any kind of impediment, obstruction or any other attitude till we take up the matter on September 30," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit had said.
Asked about the specific mention in the order that there should not be any impediment or obstruction, Siddaramaiah said, "we are aware of it. We are also aware of the resolution of the legislature and suggestions made by the Opposition parties."
In an unprecedented move in the more than century-long Cauvery dispute with the neighbouring state, both the Legislative Assembly and the Council on September 23 had adopted the resolution not to provide water for any other purpose except to meet drinking needs, citing "acute distress" and "alarmingly low levels" in its dams.
"We have no intention to disobey the Supreme Court order," the Chief Minister said, pointing out that the legislature session and opposition parties had clearly mandated that the water was required for drinking purpose.
After the meeting in New Delhi tomorrow, the government would consider various options, including whether it should go back to the legislature or call an all-party meeting, Siddaramaiah said.
He said both the BJP and JDS suggested at the all party meeting today that factoring in the legislature resolution and the Delhi meeting, the decision on release of water should be deferred till tomorrow.
The meeting was attended by BJP Union Ministers from Karnataka Ananth Kumar, D V Sadananda Gowda and Ramesh Jigajinagi, former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and the party's floor leader Jagadish Shettar, besides JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy and Congress leader in Lok Sabha MallikarjunKharge and state MPs, he said.
Siddaramaiah said, "...We have been directed by the Supreme Court to attend meeting tomorrow. We will explain all our difficulties, the ground realities we are facing and also the unanimous resolution we have passed in the Karnataka Legislature and the storage of water in our four reservoirs.
"All these aspects will be brought to the notice of the government of India and notice of Tamil Nadu government."
Asked whether not releasing water for a day will attract contempt of court, he said "...we will discuss it tomorrow, for us there is a direction by the legislature also. Whatever water we have in our reservoirs we have to reserve it for drinking water, that we have to keep in mind also, and we have to go by the direction of the legislature also.
"So keeping all this in mind and also the direction given by the Supreme Court we will discuss tomorrow in the meeting of the Chief Ministers and afterwards let us see what will be the decision that will come out," he said.
To a question whether the government was hoping for a compromise and the Centre would be sympathetic, Siddaramaiah said, "at this moment, I can't say anything. I am going tomorrow. I will attend the meeting. I will put forward our case. Let us see what will come out."
Asked whether tomorrow's meeting would decide the state's future legal strategy, he said, "it is premature to answer all this".
Siddaramaiah said apart from him, state Water Resources Minister M B Patil and Chief Secretary and three other senior officials would attend the meeting.
On a petition by Tamil Nadu seeking water to save its Samba paddy crop, the apex court had on September 5 directed release of 15,000 cusecs for 10 days which was modified on 12 September by reducing the quantum to 12,000 cusecs till 20 September.
The Cauvery Supervisory Committee had on 19 September asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs from 21 September to 30 September, but the apex court had on 20 September doubled the quantum to 6,000 cusecs, to be released from September 21 to 27, after
Tamil Nadu pressed for water to save its samba paddy crop.
It had also directed the Centre to constitute within four weeks the Cauvery Water Management Board as directed by Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.