Saturday, January 26, 2008

With an eye on North, Centre to dump Sethu project

Thursday January 24 2008 00:56 IST
New India Press K N Arun

CHENNAI: The Congress has all but decided to put the skids on the Sethusamudram project. Not because it has lost faith in the project, but because it is concerned about the political fall-out and the possible impact on the electorate in the north India in the next Lok Sabha elections.

According to informed sources, the Congress leadership would rather put the project on the back burner than risk further hurting the Hindu religious sentiments.

In fact, highly placed DMK sources said a senior Congress minister had even gone to the extent of telling his DMK colleagues in the Union Cabinet that the Congress could not afford to put its chances in half the country at risk for the sake of one state (Tamil Nadu).

The apprehension of damage to Ramar Sethu — believed to have been built by Lord Rama's vanar sena — during dredging in the present alignment had sparked protests from various Hindu groups, and is even a matter of litigation before the Supreme Court.

The controversy heightened when the Centre in a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court had questioned the historicity of Lord Rama, though the affidavit was later withdrawn.

Now, the government has sought more time to file the counter affidavit, despite the fact that the report of an expert committee to go into the nature of Ramar Sethu, on which the affidavit was to have been based, has already submitted the report.

According to sources, the committee has concluded that there is no evidence that Ramar Sethu is man made. But DMK sources say that Congress leaders are apprehensive about the impact of such categorical assertion on the Hindu voters.

It is probably a reflection of this that TN Governor S S Barnala, in his customary address to the Assembly on Wednesday, barely touched upon the Sethusamudram project. He urged the Centre “to continue the implementation of this unique and constructive project, without paying heed to the untenable and contradictory arguments now raised by a few for political gains.”

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