India’s two primary political parties, the BJP and the Congress, are opportunitically reserving their vote on the vexed Cauvery issue, which affects farmers and people of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, like vultures circling over the AIADMK vote bank in Tamil Nadu as the chief minister’s health could leave the party adrift.
Politicians in both the states and analysts closely following the water-war between the two states over the last month admit that the national political parties’ plan to expand base in Tamil Nadu have been the crucial factor to the political adjudication of the the contentious issue.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit on October 7 to chief minister Jayalalithaa’s bedside and Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s anticipated one, analysts say, will be crucial to Tamil Nadu voters in the wake of Jayalalithaa’s ill-health and extended absence from public eye.

“It is obvious that both the Congress and the BJP are eyeing the AIADMK vote bank with these visits. They want to strike a deal with AIADMK in the future,” analyst Gnani Sankaran told ET from Chennai. In Tamil Nadu, neither national party has a major presence and is dependent on AIADMK or its rival DMK .

The desire to expand base in the wake of Tamil Nadu’s political uncertainty has played out differently in neighbouring Karnataka, where the Congress is ruling and the BJP is the principal Opposition.

The regional party in Karnataka, the JD(S), has accused both the national parties of not keeping the state interest as paramount and bowing down to national considerations. “They are not safeguarding state interests, both Congress and BJP are following the directions of their high commands,“ JD(S) state president HD Kumaraswamy said.

The Congress high command took note of the situation very early and let chief minister Siddaramaiah decide not to release water. They had lesser to lose than the BJP, as their alliance partner in Ta mil Nadu, the DMK is in the Opposition. The BJP, however, had to walk a very thin line between PM Modi’s closeness to Jayalalithaa and the party’s plans to wrest Karnataka from the Congress in 2018.

“The BJP leaders initially took a stand that the Centre should not be involved in the dispute at all, as they thought their party will gain support in Tamil Nadu by this move,“ analyst Harish Ramaswamy. This backfired, he said, as the Congress government gained the upper hand in the minds of the people who saw the party put state interests above retai ning power.

“The BJP should have taken a stand that the centre should intervene and protect the interests of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. They finally had to fall in line, as did the JD(S), and seek the centre’s support for Karnataka, which is a win win situation for Siddaramaiah and the Cong ress,“ Ramaswamy said.

Days after the centre supported Karnataka’s vi ew on the Cauvery Monitoring Board and release of water at a rate comfortable to the state, Rahul Gandhi visited the hospital where Jayalalithaa is in the Critical Care Unit (CCU), signifying sympathy and support to her and indirectly, her party. Gandhi’s visit, however, was timed only after the Congress government in Karnataka began releasing water to Tamil Nadu, creating a more positive atmosphere for the Congress.

The BJP is still trying to gain ground and the PM is expected to shore up support by visiting Jayalalithaa in the hospital shortly.