Sethusamudram canal work will be stopped, says Rajnath Singh

Sethusamudram canal work will be stopped, says Rajnath SinghAurangabad/ New Delhi, Apr 20 : Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Rajnath Singh vowed to stop a controversial Sethusamudram shipping canal project, if voted to power.

Religious groups say the project will destroy a mythical bridge of sand made by Hindu god, Lord Ram.

"This government led by Congress party is planning to demolish the Ram Setu. If our government comes to power, then no one can dare to destroy the Rama Setu," Rajnath Singh said in an election rally in Jalna, a parliamentary constituency in Maharashtra.

The 560 million dollars Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project is dredgiong a channel in a narrow strip of sea between India and Sri Lanka, reducing distances and cutting costs for freight traffic.

But religious groups and opposition politicians have called on the government to stop the project, saying it will demolish a bridge of sand linking India and Sri Lanka which was built by Lord Ram.

Dredging for the project began in 2005 and the channel -- 12 metres deep, 300 metres wide and almost 90 km long -- will cut through the Ram Sethu bridge and link the Palk Bay with the Gulf of Mannar.

Meanwhile, in a move that could boost the BJP''s prospects in Darjeeling constituency in West Bengal, an ethnic group fighting for separate statehood pledged support to the BJP.

"The demand for a separate Gorkhaland is about 102 years old. All governments including those headed by Congress or any other party have not raised the issue of Gorkhaland or any other issues related to the Gorkha community. Since BJP is the first national party that put Gorkhaland issue in its poll manifesto, so we are supporting it," said Vishal Rai Kirat, general secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in New Delhi.

The GJM is supporting senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh from Darjeeling parliamentary constituency.

Ethnic Nepalis or Gorkhas living in the Darjeeling Hills are demanding a separate "Gorkhaland" state be carved out of West Bengal.

The State Government in West Bengal has been resisting demands for a separate state to Gorkhas.

GNLF launched the agitation for a separate state in 1980, but dropped the demand after New Delhi agreed to confer partial autonomy in 1988 for the Nepalese-speaking people. (ANI)