Though, Atal Tunnel providing all weather road connectivity between Manali and Lahaul – Spiti on strategically important Manali- Leh road was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narender Modi on October 3, the Congress and BJP leaders are vying with each other to draw political mileage.
During inauguration of the tunnel the NDA government and BJP leaders had affirmed, “Atal tunnel was a dream project of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and successive NDA governments provided funds to complete it; for which it has been named Atal tunnel; even PM Modi remained closely associated with the project”.
On the other hand state Congress leaders have been claiming the Rohtang tunnel named Atal tunnel was envisaged by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.”
Former Congress MLA of Lahaul –Spiti Ravi Thakur said, “Lata Thakur – former dynamic MLA of Lahual – Spiti was instrumental in taking up construction of the Rohtang tunnel and had convinced former PM Indira Gandhi in 1972 to provide round the year accessibility to the area while former PM Rajiv Gandhi had provided funds for survey and road construction to build the tunnel.”
However, the BJP leaders claim, “The actual work on the tunnel started when the NDA government headed by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee provided funds in 2000 and laid foundation stone of the road to project site at south portal Dhundi on May 23, 2002; the project gained momentum after 2014 when PM Modi became the Prime Minister,” they add.
The recent controversy about laying the foundation stone of the tunnel started during the inauguration ceremony as no mention of Congress leaders or Sonia Gandhi was made on the occasion; despite the fact the foundation stone of the Rohtang tunnel was laid on June 28, 2010 by her in the capacity of chairperson of National Advisory Council.
The Lahaul – Spiti district Congress committee president Gylachhan had also filed an FIR with the police demanding action alleging , “ some miscreants had removed the foundation stone” after which the Kulu police had investigated the matter and located the plaque .”
Kullu SP Gaurav Singh has said, “The foundation stone plaque is lying safe with the construction company in their workshop near Manali.”
The state president of HPCC Kuldeep Rathaur had also written a letter to Chief Minister Jai RamThakur demanding action threatening statewide protest.
State Congress is terming this “A deliberate attempt to ignore the contribution of Congress governments and its leaders in starting the tunnel project under the Rohtang pass.”
However, state BJP president Suresh Kashyap has accused the previous Congress governments “For allegedly starting the practice of removing foundation stones laid by BJP leaders during BJP regime.”
Former Chief Minister Prem Kumar said , “ After the Kargil war former PM Vajpayee ji had visited Keylong on June 3, 2003 when I was Chief Minister and people of Lahual- Spiti raised demand to build a tunnel to provide all weather connectivity to the area, which is strategically important .”
“ After which work started on the tunnel project and former PM A B Vajpayee had laid the foundation stone of road to the project site at south portal on May 23, 2002” , he added.
Dhumal said, “The projects like Atal tunnel are symbols of nation building and every government has contributed in the process.”