The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it had failed to meet the deadline for framing the Cauvery draft water-sharing scheme because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers were busy with the May 12 Assembly elections in Karnataka, The Hindu reported.

On April 9, the top court rebuked the Centre for ignoring its orders on setting up the Cauvery Management Board and asked it to formulate the draft scheme by May 3.

“But are you not supposed to frame the draft scheme?” Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the Centre on Thursday.

“We are in a difficult position...We are only asking for 10 days more,” Attorney General KK Venugopal and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta replied.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who represented Tamil Nadu, accused the Centre of playing politics keeping in mind the Bharatiya Janata Party’s fortunes in Karnataka. “Centre does not want to frame the scheme before the elections on May 12,” Naphade told the judges. “If you allow this to happen, there will be nothing left of the rule of law and co-operative federalism.”

The counsel for Tamil Nadu said that the state was struggling because of lack of drinking water in the summer. “It is time for you to call a spade a spade,” Naphade told the judges.

The top court then asked the Karnataka government to release at least 2 tmcft [thousand million cubic feet] of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, The Times of India reported, and warned it of consequences if it did not follow the order.

The case will next be heard on May 8.

The Cauvery water sharing dispute has been going on for 22 years now. In February, the Supreme Court directed Karnataka to release 177.25 tmcft of Cauvery water per year to Tamil Nadu and asked the Centre to set up a Cauvery Water Management Board by March 29.

Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had moved the Supreme Court against the 2007 Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s ruling. The tribunal allocated to Tamil Nadu 419 tmcft of the 740 tmcft of water available in the Cauvery basin. Karnataka received 270 tmcft of water, while 30 tmcft went to Kerala and seven tmcft to Puducherry. The Centre notified the tribunal’s award in 2013.