M A I N   N E W S

Ram Setu Row
Soni offers to resign
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 15
Amid government efforts to go to the bottom of the controversy over filing of an “erroneous” affidavit on the Sethusamudram project by the ASI, which was withdrawn yesterday, culture minister Ambika Soni said she "would resign in a minute" if such an indication came from the Prime Minister and Congress President. "I have my own code of conduct," she said, replying to a query.

She today submitted all documents, including her notings, to the PMO and instituted a departmental inquiry to fix the responsibility for the lapse which has led to rumblings in the UPA.

Soni, who met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the afternoon, apprised her of the ministry's position on the issue.

The minister, who could not meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today as he was convalescing at AIIMS, said she had given all the documents to the PMO.

Asked about the reported remarks of minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh in Kolkata in which he indirectly suggested that the culture minister should resign, Soni said she would quit if the PM or Sonia asked her to.

The minister, who returned from Japan last evening, said she and the secretary of the ministry had gone through the affidavit on September 7 and marked three deletions. She said while two deletions were made, the one relating to the controversial sentences on the existence of Lord Ram was not carried out. She said the draft affidavit had been prepared by additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramaniam and it came to the ministry from the ASI.

Sources said peeved over the controversy, the Congress President called up Soni in Japan to know how the lapse had occurred.

While the ministry has already suspended two officials based on preliminary inquiry conducted by the ASI director-general, it has now ordered a detailed departmental inquiry by the secretary, culture.

Soni said all would be given a chance to present their case and there will be no victimisation. "There will be no scapegoats," she said. Some senior officials of the ASI are also likely to be questioned.

Defending the decision to suspend the two officials, she said there has to be accountability at every level. Director, Administration, Chadrashekhar and assistant director of monuments V Bakshi were placed under suspension yesterday. Sources said they were involved with the task of carrying out the suggested amendments.

Apart from the rumblings caused by the remarks of Congress minister Jairam Ramesh in the government, the UPA leadership has to keep its crucial ally DMK in good humour as the party is a prime mover of the Sethusamudram project.

Faced with a huge controversy and under attack from the Sangh Parivar, the government had yesterday withdrawn its controversial affidavit, a portion of which raised questions on existence on Lord Rama. The government also gave indications of softening its stand on the Sethusamudram project.



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