A still image from video shows an artist’s rendering of a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to be constructed in the western Indian state of Gujarat in this handout provided by Information Department, Gujarat State October 31. Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi is building the world’s tallest statue at a cost of almost 340 million in honour of one of the country’s founding fathers, a project he is using to undermine his chief rivals the Gandhi-Nehru political dynasty. The statue of Patel who was first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s deputy and his interior minister but often at odds with him is to be built on a river island in Gujarat the home state of both Patel and Modi.
Referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assertion that India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was secular, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today quipped that the country needs the secularism practised by the ironman of India.
Speaking at the function to mark the foundation-laying ceremony for the Statue of Unity, purportedly the world’s tallest monument at Kevadia colony on the banks of Narmada river, Mr Modi said Sardar Patel was a true secular. Reconstruction of Somnath temple in Saurashtra did not come in the way of his secularism.
‘’The nation needs the secularism of Sardar Patel. His secularism worked towards uniting the country not breaking it. We all need to practice the secularism as practised by Sardar Patel,’’ he said.
Continuing his tirade against the prime minister’s assertion that Sardar Patel was a leader of the Congress and he was proud of being a member of that party, Mr Modi said it was an injustice to Sardar to associate him with any party.
He said the legacy of such a leader belongs to all and it could not be divided.
He added: ‘’We all remember freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, historical personalities like Maharana Pratap and Chhatrapati Shivaji rising above and we don’t associate them with any party. Babasaheb Ambedkar worked for the Dalits and the downtroddens, but people from all sections of society and parties respect him and are inspired by him.’’ Modi said, ‘Mahatma Gandhi fought against untouchability all his life. Now we need to finish the political untouchability.’
According to Mr Modi, it was his government that constructed the ‘Mahatma Mandir’, a memorial for Mahatma Gandhi in state capital Gandhinagar, but no one challenged or questioned him as to why a BJP leader build such a memorial for Gandhiji who led the Congress during freedom struggle. But when the Statue of Unity idea was floated, the people started to question him, he claimed.
‘Till recent times, the Union Government’s advertisements and programmes used to ignore mentioning Sardar Patel along with other leaders but after the announcement of the Statue of Unity in memory of Sardar Patel, there has been a remarkable change in the approach. Now the union government remembers Sardar Patel, this is the Gujarat effect.’ he said.
The Chief Minister said, “We should remember that the country is bigger than a party, and that India cannot progress without unity.
‘The provincialism, linguistic parochailism and castiesm have proved detrimental for the country. We need to propagate the mantra of unity to every house of the country,”
‘The society must be history-concious. It should not forget its past and should learn lessons from it. India needs its global positioning. The country of 125 crore people should emerge as a power to reckon with in the world. The memorial of Sardar Patel is not being constructed for some limited aims. It is not that Sardar belonged to Gujarat so we must do something for his memory,’ he further asserted.
He said since the statue will be the tallest monument in the world, people across the globe will be compelled to have a look at it. Modi said a nationwide campaign will be launched to collect small pieces of iron from farmers for the construction of the statue, adding that the campaign will cover seven lakh villages of the country from where small pieces of iron of any tool used by farmers will be collected. ‘Sardar Patel was also a farmer who was instrumental in bringing farmers into the freedom struggle. We are urging all farmers of the nation to donate a small piece of iron out of their tools which were used in farming,’ he said.