With the Cauvery water row expected to dominate the assembly polls in BJP-ruled Karnataka, party President Rajnath Singh today cautioned the Centre on notifying the Tribunal award and asked it to try to bring Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to the negotiating table to arrive at a consensus.
"The UPA government must tread cautiously on this issue as the decision will have a severe impact on inter-state relations. Before notifying the final award, the Prime Minister should invite the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to sit together and find a consensus," he told reporters.
Visiting Chennai for the first time after assuming Presidentship, Singh said the Supreme Court has set the February 20 deadline to notify the final award and water was a "deeply sensitive and political issue" in the country.
Resolution of the issue demanded top priority from the Centre, he said.
Singh's remarks assume significance as his party-ruled state is facing the assembly polls in the next few months and political parties in Karnataka are strongly opposing release of water to Tamil Nadu and notification of the Tribunal's award.
Launching a tirade against the Centre, he said the Congress-led UPA government's track record on diplomatic and strategic front was not only "lacklustre but also incoherent and inconsistent."
"On the one hand, we have Pakistan pursuing its anti-India policies and on the other hand there is China encircling india from all directions", Singh said.
Charging the Centre with making several compromises on the ethnic Tamils issue, Singh said Sri Lankan government ruling out greater autonomy for them was a "big diplomatic failure" of the UPA government.
Demanding that the Prime Minister raise the issue of relief, rehabilitation and empowerment of Tamils in Sri Lanka through diplomatic channels, he said the matter of providing security to Tamil Nadu fishermen also needs to be raised.
On whether the Ram Temple issue would be on the party's agenda, he said BJP was of the firm opinion that it should be constructed at Ram Janambhoomi. He, however, said the matter is sub-judice and should wait for the Supreme Court judgement.
Observing that the Ram Temple issue would not be a problem for the party, he said the party had included the issue in the 2009 election manifesto.
On the issue of BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate and whether Narendra Modi would be considered, he said the issue would be decided by the party's Parliamentary Board. "This is the proper forum to decide on who should be projected as Prime Ministerial candidate and what role should be given to any person", he said.
Terming Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's controversial "Hindu terror" remarks as "shameful", he demanded Shinde withdraw his statement and apologise. Though the issue would be raised in Parliament, his party would not disturb Parliament, he said.
Asked whether he foresaw early elections, he said Congress would try to enjoy power till the last day.
To a question on alliance in Tamil Nadu for the Lok Sabha polls, he said the state unit would decide on the issue.
On growing 'cultural intolerance' in the country, Singh said since films, music, books and other creative modes of public discourse functioned as vehicles to promote alternative ideas which should be given ample space to flourish.