The Kullu district administration has written to the Border Roads Organisation regarding the reinstallation of a plaque bearing Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s name at the Atal Tunnel.
“We have written to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief engineer regarding the installation of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s plaque,” Kullu Deputy Commissioner Ashutosh Garg said.
Garg also claimed that the BRO had taken up the issue with the Defence ministry.
However, when contacted, BRO Chief Engineer Jitender Prasad said he was on leave and not aware of the status.
A day after Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu assumed the chief minister’s office, he had said the issue of “restoration” of a plaque declaring that the foundation stone for the Atal Tunnel was laid by Gandhi would be taken up with the authorities concerned.
In a statement, Sukhu had said Gandhi laid the tunnel’s foundation stone as the then National Advisory Council chairperson.
Terming the plaque going “missing” an “insult to democracy”, Sukhu said it must be restored at the earliest.
The statement had evoked sharp reaction from BJP leaders, who threatened to hit the streets if the Congress government removed a plaque bearing the name of former prime minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee.
Vajpayee had announced the project during a public meeting at Lahaul-Spiti’s Keylong in June 2000. He had laid the foundation stone for an approach road to the tunnel in 2002, said the BJP’s Himachal unit spokesperson Randhir Sharma.
Gandhi had only performed the ‘bhumi pujan’, the entire work was undertaken by Vajpayee, he said.
However, the officials confirmed that the tunnel’s name would remain the same and Vajpayee’s plaque would not be disturbed — only Gandhi’s plaque would be reinstalled.
The Congress’ state unit had staged protests after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the tunnel on October 3, 2020, alleging that the foundation stone laid by Gandhi on June 28, 2010, had been removed before its opening.
Himachal Pradesh Police had on October 14, 2020, said the foundation stone was with the construction company that built the tunnel. The 9.02-km Atal Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in the world, connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley.
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