Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah shared stage on Thursday to usher in economic development, connecting the remote parts of the state with the rest of the country.
In presence of Gandhi, the foundation stone of the tunnel at Z- Morh in Sonmarg — which is to connect Srinagar and Leh — was laid by Union road minister CP Joshi. The plaque carried the names of both, mentioning Gandhi as the guest of honour.
The 6.5-km tunnel, under construction by the Border Roads Organisation at a cost of Rs. 2,716 crore, it is expected to be completed by 2018. Along with the proposed 13.5-km Zojila tunnel, this is expected to link the region with the rest of the country through the year. Currently, the area remains cut off from the mainland for over six months in winter.
This was the first time Gandhi and Abdullah shared stage after the two ruling coalition partners in the state — Congress and the National Conference —got engaged in a feud over the implementation of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments in J&K. While Gandhi has been pushing for extending the amendments to J&K, Abdullah has maintained that there was no need to do so and assured that similar changes could be incorporated in the state’s own constitution.
Addressing the 500-strong crowd, Gandhi said Kashmir should have the same pace of economic growth the rest of India is witnessing. “The Z-Morh tunnel is the first step towards this. The youth of Kashmir should get connected with development fast.”