Setu: politicking for ‘secular’ affidavit

UPA tries to bring allies on board over sethu issue

Political Bureau (Financial Express)

Posted online: Tuesday , February 26, 2008 at 2217 hrs IST

New Delhi, Feb 26 Intending to spread out possible political costs incurred while pushing ahead with the Sethusamudram project in Tamil Nadu, the UPA leadership on Tuesday sought to bring all major alliance partners into the accountability frame by seeking their views on the contentious issue.

Party leaders of all major allies were handed over a draft affidavit on the Rama Sethu issue at a meeting of the cabinet committee on political affairs (CCPA) convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday afternoon. The affidavit is to be submitted before the Supreme Court on March 5. Alliance partners have been told to give their views on the issue by Thursday.

The draft affidavit, party circles asserted, has taken the line that the Rama Sethu is not a man made structure but a natural formation. This line concurs with the stand taken by the experts committee that was set up by the government to look into whether the Sethu connecting the Indian coast and Sri Lanka is man made or not. The issue turned into a controversy after a previous affidavit filed by the culture ministry before the Supreme Court made references to existence of Lord Ram.

Earlier, a meeting of the group of ministers (GoM) headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee to look into the issue had failed to reach at an agreement with culture minister Ambika Soni walking out of one of the meetings. In the GoM deliberations, the shipping ministry had signaled that it wanted to go ahead with the project while Soni had insisted on detailed archaeological survey as per international norms before taking any decision on the project, opposed by the BJP.

Soni had walked out of the meeting in protest against shipping minister TR Baalu’s charge that she was coming in the way of the implementation of the Rs 2,287 crore project. The matter was finally put before the CCPA.

http://tinyurl.com/2adk3n

Setu row: Govt to steer clear of ‘faith’ issue
27 Feb 2008, 0246 hrs ISTclip_image001,clip_image002TNN (Times of India)

NEW DELHI: The Manmohan Singh government hopes to defuse the Sethusamudram mine by arguing that evidence so far points to the Adam’s Bridge structure between Dhanuskodi and Sri Lanka not being man-made and that the alignment of the proposed shipping canal must be guided by expert opinion.
The government has found itself in a jam after its “Ram-did-not-exist” affidavit in the SC last year kicked up a political storm. This time around, it is preparing to adopt a much more cautious approach when the case next comes up in the apex court on March 5 by arguing that it was going by the “available” evidence on the Ram Setu formation.
The matter was considered by the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs on Tuesday and while no firm decision has been arrived at, the approach of the government seems to be to leave it to the SC to decide on the petition challenging the project on grounds of “faith” rather than to commit itself to a position on this score.
Senior sources pointed out that while the petitioner had demanded a study to evaluate the nature of Ram Setu, there was no reason for government to be proactive in the matter. The government will be expected to state that it was taking forward a project initiated by the NDA and that the current “alignment no 6” was the one found to be feasible.
While the government will argue that it is more for the technical experts to decide on the alignment of the canal.
The Tourism and Culture Ministry had already hinted that the “cultural” aspect of the controversy will need to be considered as well.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Setu_row_Govt_to_steer_clear_of_faith_issue/articleshow/2817862.cms

Draft affidavit finalised on Sethu issue

(The Hindu) New Delhi (PTI): In a balancing act, the government on Tuesay finalised a draft affidavit on the controversial Sethusamudram issue aimed at addressing the concerns of key constituent DMK without hurting Hindu sentiments.

A day after the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the issue met without any conclusion, the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met on Tuesday to take a view on the affidavit to be filed before the Supreme Court.

A draft affidavit was considered at the meeting which decided to meet again after a few days allowing for all the constituent parties to consider it.

Sources said the new affidavit, for which the apex court has given time till next month for filing, would be “secular” in nature without disturbing the proposed alignment of the shipping project in the Palk Straits.

Unlike the last time when the government referred to issues like Lord Ram in the affidavit that created a controversy, the present one would consciously avoid any such references.

http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/000200802262069.htm

Sethu decision put off (Economic Times)
27 Feb, 2008, 0224 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, which met on Tuesday to finalise the Centre’s position on the Sethusamudram issue, has deferred a decision on the matter in light of sharp differences within the ruling alliance. The government has to decide on the stand it should adopt before the Supreme Court on the question of continuing with work on the ship channel.
The top leadership of the UPA is now set meet again on Thursday to take a final call on whether the government affidavit, to be submitted to the apex court in the first week of March, should ask for the vacation of the stay order on construction work of the ship channel project though the Adam’s bridge or Ram Sethu (the bridge mentioned in the epic Ramayana). The court had given the Centre four weeks to file its affidavits in the case on January 31.
The DMK is putting pressure on the Centre to complete the implementation of the project at the earliest. It has become a matter of prestige for the Dravidian outfit with opposition AIADMK opposing the project staunchly. DMK’s allies in Tamil Nadu and at the Centre, such as the PMK as well as the Congress itself, have however not shown the same enthusiasm for the move but Left parties are backing the DMK stand.
Shipping minister T R Baalu’s supporters are citing pressure from the DMK and the Left to argue that the government must ask for the Supreme Court to vacate its stay order. They are also arguing that if the government does not ask the Apex Court to vacate its stay order it would be akin to agreeing with the BJP line that it is a matter of “faith” and accepting the Opposition party’s stand on the Ram Mandir question.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsNation/Sethu_decision_put_off/articleshow/2817831.cms

UPA still divided over Sethu

(Deccan Chronicle)

Chennai, Feb 26: The ruling United Progressive Alliance remains divided over dredging for the controversial Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project even as the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met at Delhi Tuesday evening and finalised a draft affidavit for submission to the Supreme Court.

While the DMK insists on going ahead with the project, the Congress is not so keen for fear of hurting the Hindu sentiments as the present alignment threatened Rama Sethu, the legendary bridge believed to have been built by Hanuman’s monkey brigade to help Lord Rama cross over to Lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana.

Nevertheless, a source said the CCPA had now decided on a draft affidavit that would satisfy the DMK without hurting the Hindu sentiments. This would be difficult since satisfying the DMK would mean resuming the dredging along the present alignment and that is bound to ruffle the Hindu feelings—a risky proposition as five states with strong BJP presence are coming up for elections. The Congress had fared disastrously in the recent polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

The Group of Ministers  (GoM), constituted by Prime Minister Singh sometime back to tackle the Sethu issue, had met on Monday but failed to reach a consensus on the affidavit to be presented to the Supreme Court. It is well known that Shipping Minister T. R. Baalu of the DMK has been at loggerheads with Culture Minister Ambika Sonia of the Congress with regard to the alignment. The former is keen on resuming the dredging without disturbing the present alignment and Ms Soni has been insisting on having a detailed archaeological survey of an international standard before taking any decision on resuming the dredging. Otherwise, the Hindus would be upset, she reasoned.

Mr Baalu’s boss and the DMK chief minister M. Karunanidhi, in proclaiming his atheism, had caused a furore among the Hindus questioning their opposition to the SSCP and demanding to know whether Lord Rama was an engineer to have built the bridge. In which college had Rama studied his engineering, asked the DMK chief. In the process, he supplied potent ammunition for the Sangh Parivar to demolish the Congress in the Gujarat and HP polls. The Congress would not want a repeat in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The GoM meeting on Monday was no better than the previous session that ended sore with Ms Soni walking out, reportedly humiliated by Mr Baalu accusing her of derailing the Tamils’ dream project. Since no consensus emerged at the Monday meet, it was decided to refer the matter to the Prime Minister who in turn called the CCPA to resolve the issue, it is said.

The CCPA, according to a source, decided to pick up the draft affidavit prepared sometime back by the Cabinet Secretariat to inform the Supreme Court that an expert committee, constituted as per the court directive, had concluded that Rama Sethu, also known as the Adam’s Bridge, was a natural formation and not man-made. The head of the expert committee, Prof S. Ramachandran, vice-chancellor of the University of Madras, was handpicked by Minister Baalu.

The Supreme Court had stayed the dredging of the Rama Sethu on August 31 last year on a petition from the Janata party president and former Union Minister Dr Subramaniam Swamy, who had alleged, among other things, arbitrariness in the decision to choose the present alignment for dredging through the Rama Sethu when an expert committee had earlier recommended half-a-dozen alternative options. The government was to go back to the court with the recommendation of the Ramachandran committee, which was handed over to Mr Baalu in November last year.

On January 31, the Apex Court had granted four weeks extension to the Centre to file the affidavits (based on the expert committee report) and this deadline would expire first week of March. That explains the urgency in the UPA deliberations to evolve a consensus that would restart the Sethu project without causing too much of a damage to the Hindu vote while keeping the DMK in good humour.

http://www.deccan.com/chennaichronicle/home/homedetails.asp#UPA%20still%20divided%20over%20Sethu

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One Response to “Setu: politicking for ‘secular’ affidavit”

  1. dr.v.ananthanarayanan Says:

    the whole issue is a mess because india is now ruled by congress hooligans,dmk rowdies,christian muffias,and weak kneed turban singh,italian bar girls,and assorted sort of hindu hating illiterates.vandematharam.jai hind.

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