SHIMLA: With Congress returning to power in Himachal Pradesh, fresh controversy over the laying of foundation stone of Atal Rohtang Tunnel has surfaced once again.
Chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Monday said that the state government would take up the matter of restoring the foundation stone plaque of Atal Tunnel Rohtang, laid by Sonia Gandhi in the capacity as Chairperson of National Advisory Council on June 28, 2010, with concerned authority.
Sukhu said that the plaque of foundation stone was missing which was an insult to democracy and must be restored at the earliest. He said that the 9.02 kilometer tunnel was built by the Border Road Organization to connect landlocked Lahaul-Spiti district.
While in opposition, the Congress Party had earlier also taken up the matter regarding the restoration of missing plaque and its restoration with authority concerned. Controversy over the Tunnel erupted after Prime Minister Narendra inaugurated it on on October 3, 2020. Since the laying of foundation stone, both Congress and BJP are taking credit for it. Congress claims that it was Indira Gandhi, who visited Lahaul valley in 1972, had first conceived the idea of building a tunnel to end the misery of Lahaul residents and during UPA regime , while BJP claims that Rohtang tunnel project was announced by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2,000 and he had allotted funds to check the feasibility and to build approach road till Dhundi. Vajpayee had laid the foundation stone of the approach road in 2002 and the tunnel was named after him on December 25 last year.
Congress leaders at the time or inauguration of tunnel had raised the issue of missing foundation stone for Rohtang tunnel (now named as Atal Tunnel, Rohtang) laid by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on June 28, 2010. Congress then itself had made it clear that if the missing plaque is not re-installed now then on coming to power in 2022, the party will install the plaque to its original position. Congress leaders said that BJP can give the credit to late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but the truth will remain that idea was first conceived by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and grounded by Sonia Gandhi during UPA regime headed by Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.
BJP on its part had claimed that on June 3, 2000, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and then party’s incharge for state Narendra Modi had gone to Keylong where people raised the issue and demanded the construction of a tunnel. Responding to public demand, Vajpayee had announced in Keylong itself that a tunnel would be constructed.
Before Vajpayee reached Delhi, the Dhumal government had prepared the case for the construction of the tunnel and sent it to the Prime Minister’s Office. On May 26, 2002, Vajpayee as Prime Minister along with Defence Minister George Fernandes had laid the foundation stone of approach for the tunnel upto South Portal.