Soni keeps PM in loop over Setu issue

Soni keeps PM in loop over Sethu issue New Delhi (PTI), The Hindu, Jan. 5, 2008: Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni is understood to have discussed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the drafting of a fresh affidavit on the Ram Sethu issue before the Supreme Court. Soni called on the Prime Minister on Friday and is understood to have briefed him about the drafting of the fresh affidavit on the issue, Culture Ministry sources said. The Minister had to suffer a major embarrassment after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) questioned the existence of Lord Rama in its affidavit on the Sethusamudram issue before the Supreme Court last September. The affidavit had to be withdrawn later after strong protest from Hindu groups. The new affidavit is being drafted carefully in a matter-of-fact manner and it is likely to mention that the project was conceived during the NDA regime, the sources said. Legal officers and ASI officials involved with the controversial affidavit filed before the Supreme Court last time have been removed from future involvement in the case. With recent election results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh going the BJP way, the Congress-led UPA government is trying to avoid another political storm over the Ram Sethu issue. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/002200801051754.htmhttp://news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=1176178   Cautious PM to vet next Setu affidavit
5 Jan 2008, 0351 hrs IST , TNN

NEW DELHI: Stung by the controversy in September over the Archaeological Survey of India’s affidavit in SC denying the existence of Ram or Ram Setu, the government is not taking any chance now, with PM Manmohan Singh involved in the sensitive job of fine-tuning ASI’s next affidavit to be filed in the apex court by January 16.

On Friday, Singh discussed the affidavit with culture minister Ambika Soni in detail. PMO sources said that Singh stressed on not repeating the mistakes of the previous affidavit. It was also decided that the affidavit should go through greater scrutiny. The PM is also keen to take a look at the affidavit when it is finalised. Within the culture ministry, Soni, secretary and ASI director general will go through the contents.

Already, legal officers and ASI officials involved with the controversial affidavit filed with the SC last time have been removed from future involvement in the case.

The next affidavit is expected to be drafted in a matter-of-fact manner, but would also mention that the project was conceived during the NDA regime.

With VHP and RSS raising the pitch on Ram Setu again, sources said government was in no mood to give an issue to the BJP on a platter. What has made the government extra cautious is the manner in which even Congress criticized the September affidavit. The PM and party president Sonia Gandhi had sought explanation from the culture minister.

Later, party leader Karan Singh had written in Congress mouthpiece ‘Sandesh’ decrying the affidavit as anti-Hindu.
After the furore, government had withdrawn the objectionable portions from the affidavit. Two officials of ASI — Chandrasekhar, director (administration) and V Bakshi, assistant director, monuments — were suspended immediately.
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