A plaque with Sonia Gandhi’s name, installed at the south portal of Rohtang Tunnel (now Atal Tunnel) on June 28, 2010, has gone ‘missing’. The Congress in Himachal Pradesh has threatened to launch a protest against the alleged removal of party chief Sonia Gandhi’s inaugural plaque from the tunnel in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 3 had inaugurated the strategically-important Atal Tunnel. The tunnel connects Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley and reduces travel time to Leh in Ladakh by five hours.
However, Congress leaders in Himachal Pradesh have alleged that the foundation plaque bearing Mrs Gandhi’s name was removed from the tunnel ahead of its inauguration.
Undemocratic and illegal step ever
State party president Kuldeep Singh Rathore has written to Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, warning of a protest.
Rathore, in the letter, warned the state government of a state-wide agitation, if the foundation stone was not restored.
“This (removing the stone) is an undemocratic, unconventional and illegal step ever,” he said in the letter.
He said that Mrs Gandhi had laid the foundation stone for the Rohtang Tunnel project at the south portal on June 28, 2010, at Dhoondi in Manali.
The Congress has alleged that the foundation plaque bearing Sonia Gandhi’s name was removed from the tunnel.
Two party leaders — Gialchhen Thakur and Hari Chand Sharma — have filed a police case in Keylong and Manali seeking investigations into how the foundation stone went missing.
While inaugurating the tunnel, PM Modi took several swipes at the Congress (without naming) and said defence interests had been compromised under its rule.
The decision to construct the tunnel was taken on June 3, 2000, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister. The Union Cabinet decided in 2019 to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel to honour the former Prime Minister.
Described as the longest of its kind in the world, the 9.02 km-long Atal Tunnel is built to “ultra-modern specifications” at an altitude of 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas.