There is a growing feeling in the Congress that the party and the government have mishandled the Ram Setu issue.
"First we file an affidavit in which we say that there is no evidence of Lord Ram's existence. Then we withdraw the affidavit. And now we have the spectacle of one minister seeking the resignation of another,'' said a senior Congress leader, alluding to Union Minister of State Jairam Ramesh's remarks that if he was the culture minister (which Ambika Soni is) he would have quit following the affidavit controversy.
Ram in management lessons
Amidst the controversy, the warrior prince's advice to his brother Bharat as he embarked on a 14-year exile has become part of management studies. The episode where Lord Ram is leaving for 'vanvas' has been incorporated in a course on public administration and management by the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthanam, an autonomous body under the Union Human resource Development ministry.
He also expressed apprehension that the party may have to pay a price for this mishandling. “This issue has huge ramifications,” he added, noting the opposition parties were trying to use the controversial affidavit and the Sachar panel report to paint the Congress as anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim.
Like him, other Congress leaders also privately wonder why the party has chosen to be defensive on the setu samudram project. “Why are we defensive about it? Why cannot we put the BJP in the dock on it? Why cannot we say that the project the BJP is now opposing was cleared by the NDA government? The Vajpayee government had got the project surveyed and then sanctioned in Parliament,'' said another prominent leader.
The Ram setu episode has provided yet another indication of Congress leaders and ministers talking at cross purposes, if not taking pot shots at each other. A day after Ramesh's anti-Soni remarks, former Union Minister Salman Khurshid came out in her support, saying that she cannot be held accountable for the controversial affidavit. .
According to an agency report, Khurshid said he had spoken to Soni and found she was "hurt" by Ramesh's remarks, which had come as "quite a surprise" to her. Both Khurshid and Ramesh were close to Soni when she was political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary before joining the Union Cabinet. Ramesh's comments are seen as a sign that he has distanced himself from Soni.
Some Congress leaders find the MoS's remarks surprising since AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi had officially said that an informal inquiry was being conducted to nail the guilty and the process was on to file a supplementary affidavit next week.