Breaking his silence for the first time on the issue of missing plaque of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at landmark Atal Rohtang Tunnel, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jairam Thakur said that the foundation stone and plaque is in safe custody, and will be put back at an appropriate time.
“What is all the panic about? The Congress must know that it's the ministry of defence (MoD) which has to take a call on it, not me or the state government,” he told Outlook.
Thakur said, “I wonder if the Congress is left with some sane minded and mature leaders. They simply try to politicise every issue. The foundation stone laid by Sonia Gandhi is very much there. It lies in the safe custody of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), and perhaps the construction company engaged in the tunnel work. There was no question of it having gone missing. It's foolish to assume so.”
Asked if the plaque will be put back, he said, “We have written to the MoD on this issue. It’s their property and they have to take a call on it as to where and when it will be put back.”
The Atal Rohtang Tunnel was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 3. He also addressed three public functions at tunnel’s south portal, Sissu (Lahaul-Spiti) and Solang nullah (Manali).
The Atal Rohtang Tunnel is a 9.2 km long strategically important tunnel which also happens to be the world's longest tunnel at a height of 10,000 feet.
The tunnel was the dream project of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had announced the project on June 3, 2000, during his visit to Keylong.
The foundation stone of the project was laid by Sonia Gandhi on June 28, 2010.
The Congress had threatened to launch mass agitation if the plaque was not put back at its site at Tunnel’s south portal along with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s.
Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri had even claimed that the Congress, on its return to power in 2022, will put back the plaque.