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  India   All India  01 Nov 2018  Congress, BJP battle over Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel legacy

Congress, BJP battle over Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel legacy

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Nov 1, 2018, 1:07 am IST
Updated : Nov 1, 2018, 5:54 am IST

The Congress president said Patel was a patriot who fought for an independent, united and secular India.

PM Modi dedicated the 597 feet or 182-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to the nation on his 143rd birth anniversary in Gujarat’s Narmada district. (Photo: Twitter | @narendramodi)
 PM Modi dedicated the 597 feet or 182-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to the nation on his 143rd birth anniversary in Gujarat’s Narmada district. (Photo: Twitter | @narendramodi)

New Delhi: The politics over appropriating the legacy of India’s “Iron Man”, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, intensified on Wednesday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 182-feet-tall statue costing nearly Rs 3,000 crore of the country’s first home minister at Kevadiya in Gujarat. The Congress Party was quick to attack. Asserting that Sardar Patel was and would always remain a Congressman, it accused the BJP-led government of “treason” for the “systematic destruction” of institutions that the Gujarat strongman had helped build.

The war of words began on Wednesday when Mr Modi, in what many saw as a jibe at the Congress president, said had Sardar Patel not worked for the country’s unity, “Shiv bhakts” wouldn’t have been able to pray at the Somnath Temple today.

Inaugurating the “Statue of Unity”, the construction of which he had announced as Gujarat chief minister in 2013, the Prime Minister said, “Imagine for a moment that if Sardar Patel had not worked towards uniting the nation, Indians would have to get a visa to see the Gir lions and tigers... and Shiv bhakts would need a visa to do puja at the Somnath temple... people would also need a visa to see the Charminar in Hyderabad”.

As soon as Mr Modi unveiled the statue, Mr Gandhi began attacking the government. “Ironic that a statue of Sardar Patel is being inaugurated, but every institution he helped build is being smashed,” he tweeted.  

The Congress president said Mr Patel was a patriot who fought for an independent, united and secular India. “A man with a steely will, tempered by compassion, he was a Congressman to the core, who had no tolerance for bigotry or communalism. On his birth anniversary, I salute this great son of India,” he said in another tweet.

Taking their cue from the party president, leader after leader in the Congress hit out at the Modi government alleging they were trying to claim the legacy a Congressman known as the “Iron Man”.

Congress leader and former Union minister Shashi Tharoor questioned why there was no such gigantic statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the country and wanted to know why BJP had not built a bigger statue for him. “Patel, a very simple person, was known as the disciple of Gandhiji,” he tweeted.

Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the party in Lok Sabha, accused the BJP of using the statue of Sardar Patel for their “vested interest”. It is an election gimmick, he said.

Not to be left behind, BSP chief Mayawati demanded an apology from the BJP and from those who had criticised her over the statues of Dalit leaders built by her government in Uttar Pradesh.

“All those in the BJP, the RSS and company need to apologise, especially to the people of the Bahujan samaj, for terming the statues installed by the then BSP government to honour icons like Baba Saheb Ambedkar and others as wasteful expenditure,” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister she said in a statement.

Tags: narendra modi, sardar vallabhbhai patel
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi