CHENNAI: While a Congress-DMK alliance for the 2014 Lok Sabha election appears certain, the UPA government’s submission in the Supreme Court on the Sethusamudram shipping canal project on Monday reiterates a growing proximity between the two parties.
The Centre’s sudden keenness to implement it along the controversial Ram Sethu alignment brings it into direct conflict with BJP. But, more significant is the fact that it gives DMK a face-saving excuse to renew ties with Congress, which it had snapped barely six months ago on the Tamil Eelam issue. Congress also believes that the Sethu project will boost its prospects in Tamil Nadu.
“We have been putting pressure on the government to implement the project. It is a happy outcome,” DMK spokesperson T K S Elangovan told TOI. The party leadership is practical enough to realise that the poll arithmetic would be better with the national party on its side.
“The UPA government’s stand on the Sethu project will help us explain to the people why the party is returning to Congress fold after the brief estrangement,” said a DMK leader.
Tamil Nadu Congress leaders point out that while the Centre’s stand was bound to make DMK happy, the final verdict would be delivered by the Supreme Court. Dismissing any political motive behind the government’s stand on the project in the court, TNCC president B S Gnanadesikan said, “The government will take a decision not based on political considerations, but on realities.”
The Centre submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that it intended to implement the Sethusamundram project without changing the original alignment that cuts across Adam’s Bridge, considered the mythical Ram Setu. The affidavit stated the government did not accept the R K Pachauri committee’s recommendations that the project was economically and ecologically unviable. It also rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s stand that project should be scrapped on the ground that it was of “questionable economic value and not in the public interest”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had appointed the Pachauri committee after the Supreme Court asked the government to explore alternative alignments to avoid destruction of Adam’s Bridge. Hindutva parties believe it is a natural heritage structure which must be preserved and can not be sacrificed for navigational advantage and easier movement of ships.
The Pachauri committee report said the project would be an ecological disaster. It based its conclusion on factors like ocean currents and wind speeds. BJP national executive member L Ganesan said the project could be implemented without destroying or tampering with the Ram Sethu.