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 Atal Tunnel in the state.
The strategically-important Atal Tunnel, that connects Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley and reduces travel time to Leh in Ladakh by up to five hours, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 3.
The Congress leaders in Himachal Pradesh have alleged that the foundation plaque bearing Ms Gandhi’s name was removed from the tunnel ahead of its inauguration.
State party president Kuldeep Singh Rathore has written to chief minister Jairam Thakur, warning of a protest.
“If the missing foundation stone is not re-installed, Congress will hold a state-wide agitation against the government,” Mr Rathore wrote in the letter.
“This (removing the stone) is an undemocratic, unconventional and illegal step ever,” he added in the letter.
The Congress said Ms Gandhi had laid the foundation stone for the Rohtang Tunnel project at the south portal on June 28, 2010, at Dhoondi in Manali.
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 earlier this month, PM Modi used the occasion to take several swipes at the Congress (although without naming the opposition party), declaring that defence interests had been compromised under its rule.
The decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass in Himachal 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 contribution made by the former Prime Minister.
Described as the longest highway construction 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.