‘Iron Man of In­dia’ Sar­dar Val­lab­hb­hai Pa­tel stands proud as one of world’s tallest stat­ues

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD -

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

AP

In­dian po­lice next to the Statue of Unity at Ke­vadiya colony in Gu­jarat state give lit­tle idea of the statue’s mon­u­men­tal scale

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