‘Iron Man of India’ Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stands proud as one of world’s tallest statues
India’s prime minister yesterday unveiled a towering bronze statue of key independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Patel is being promoted as a national hero in the ruling party’s campaign ahead of next year’s general elections.
Born in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s native Gujarat state, Patel was also India’s first home minister after the country won its independence from Britain in 1947.
He was known as the “Iron Man of India” for integrating various states in the post-independence era, when the creation of Pakistan led to enormous bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims moving between the two nations.
The statue is part of a broader project by Mr Modi to counter the opposition Indian National Congress Party’s firm claim on India’s history by way of the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, his mentor, peace activist Mahatma Gandhi, and his daughter, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her guards in 1984.
Nehru’s great-grandson, Rahul Gandhi, leads the Congress Party, and if a unified opposition wins a majority of seats in parliamentary elections due next spring, he could be a candidate for India’s next prime minister.
The Patel statue “puts the opposition in a quandary because any criticism of Modi’s showmanship will enable him to depict critics as being the same type of politicians who denied Patel his rightful place in the nation and history”, said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst in Delhi and author of the book Modi: The Man, The Times.
“In the process, not only will the Statue of Unity literally dwarf statues of all other Indian leaders but the event will also enable the memory of Sardar to rise imposingly over Congress Party leaders,” Mr Mukhopadhyay said.
At 182 metres tall, Patel’s bronze figure in Kevadiya, a village in Gujarat, is one of the tallest statues in the world, almost 10 storeys higher than the 153-metre Spring Temple Buddha statue in China and nearly twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, which stands at 93 metres.
The 42-month project, built by 250 engineers and 3,000 workers, began in 2013, when Mr Modi was the top elected official in Gujarat. After he became prime minister in 2014, he pledged to complete it despite some critics balking at the $403 million (Dh1.48 billion) price tag.
Mr Modi said the statue would serve as a beacon of hope for India and “keep on reminding the whole world” about Patel’s courage.
The monument will have a museum with 40,000 documents, 2,000 photographs and a research centre dedicated to Patel’s life and work.
“Although Patel was from Gujarat state, all Indians were proud of him because of his stature,” said Rashesh Patel, 42, a businessman who attended the inauguration ceremony.
Patel is being promoted as a national hero in the ruling party’s campaign ahead of next year’s general elections
Indian police next to the Statue of Unity at Kevadiya colony in Gujarat state give little idea of the statue’s monumental scale