While MPs made their interventions on the confidence motion, the government was — even as late as 11 pm on Monday — working out the finer nuances of its new stance on the Ram Setu.
A senior government official said the “government’s latest position” was finalised in “a series of hasty meetings” late on Monday, when the DMK, which had been pressing for the speedy implementation of the Sethusamudram Canal Project, decided to cash in on the Congress’ position on the first day of the trust vote.
Earlier, it was the Congress, through culture minister Ambika Soni, which spelt out the government’s stance on the issue. But last year, Soni was in the eye of a political storm when the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying there was no historical or scientific evidence about the existence of Lord Ram or the Ram Setu.
The ASI subsequently withdrew the affidavit and officials made clear they would not be opposing the Ram Setu’s existence, as it was a “matter of faith”. Subsequently, a fresh combined “application” was filed — this time on behalf of the government (read not the ASI alone).
With the Congress having back-tracked after the controversy, the DMK managed to wrest control of the issue.
The new applications are now piloted through the ministry of shipping, a portfolio held by DMK heavyweight T. R. Baalu. Other ministries related to the government's dealings on the issue are environment (where the DMK’s S Reghupathy is minister of state) and the culture ministry.
Senior officials who knew the matter was being heard in the Supreme Court said they learnt late on Monday that a meeting was taking place at the residence of the government's senior counsel Fali S Nariman. “Even the citations from the Kambha Purana were provided by the DMK side,” an official associated with the process said. Nariman could not be reached for a comment.