Anyone who knows Narendra Modi –and many Congressmen do—would know that Modi’s veneration for the entire range of freedom fighters -- especially Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel -- is nothing new. For example, before Modi went to take the oath as CM on October 7, 2001 the first thing he did was to seek the blessings of 5 leading figures of the freedom movement. Here is the video link showing Narendra Modi, on his way to the oath taking ceremony, getting out of an old blue Maruti 800 to pay homage to these heroes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd0Ndc3mQ4Q.
He began with a prayer at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, followed by a similar floral tribute and prayer at the statues of Sardar Patel and Babasaheb Amebedkar. Thereafter, he went to seek blessings at the statues of Ravi Shankar Vyas and Vithalbhai Jhaverbhai Patel.
The first three names are well known. But here is a brief description from Wikipedia about the other two heroes who Modi sought on the most eventful day of his life, i.e., 7 October, 2001.
Ravi Shankar Vyas (1884–1984) was a Congressman and freedom fighter born at Rudhi village in Kheda district of Gujarat. He combined social reform work with political mobilization. He was known by different names such as "Borinvala Maharaj" and "Muksevak"— meaning “silent worker.” He was one of the earliest and closest associates of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, he was one of the key organizers of the freedom movement and revolts against the British rule in Gujarat along with with Darbar Gopaldas Desai, Narhari Parikh and Mohanlal Pandya, Jhaverchand Meghani’s book "Mansaee Na Deeva" provides a rich account of select episodes of Ravi Shankar Maharaj’s eventful life and his social upliftment mission, including his pioneering work of successfully persuading outlaws to give up a life of crime. His political stature is evident from the fact that he was the one chosen to inaugurate the formation of Gujarat as a separate state in 1960.
I wonder how many Congressmen remember this stalwart of their Party during its earlier avatar—its Mahatma Gandhi led days?
Vithalbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was the third of 5 Patel brothers. He was four years elder to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He too grew up in the village of Karamsad and like Vallabhbhai, Vithalbhai too studied law in Bombay. He worked as a lawyer in the courts of Godhra and Borsad before he went to study law in London and topped his class. He returned to Gujarat in 1913 and became an important barrister in the courts of Bombay and Ahmadabad.
Vithalbhai also joined the Congress led freedom struggle though he had differences with Gandhi. When following the Chaura-Chauri incident in 1922, Gandhi called off his Satyagraha, Vithalbhai left the Congress to form the Swaraj Party with Chittranjan Das and Motilal Nehru. He also became a strong ally of Subhash Chandra Bose.
All these stalwarts have been universally revered among Gujaratis of all hues, cutting across party lines. By attacking Modi for “stealing” what Congress leaders claim is their “exclusive political legacy”, they are playing a very dangerous and divisive game. They not only wish to disenfranchise Modi as a Gujarati and rob him of his cherished political heritage, but also create permanent fissures in our societysociety whereas Patel and other freedom fighters have thus far played the role of emotionally unifying people.
Sardar Patel has been Modi’s hero from very early on. Like most Gujaratis, Modi has grown up believing that Nehru stole the prime minister’s post through undemocratic means from a far more able and deserving Patel. As a student of history, I too believe the same and feel anguished at the shoddy manner in which Nehru often treated Patel. It was the Nehru led Left in the Congress which created prejudice against Patel by dubbing him a Hindu communalist. As a result, the Left has always treated Patel with disdain and mistrust. Why do Congressmen resent Modi honouring Patel, if they really care for him? They should be happy that a BJP leader is honouring a Congress leader. Is it because Modi doesn’t fail to remind the world that Congress had discarded Patel long ago? Or is it because the Nehru dynasty seems to be failing to hold on to power on the strength of its own over used and abused charisma?
I personally find the idea of a Statue of Unity very fascinating, especially since it is not meant as a mere standalone tourist site like the Statue of Liberty in New York. This is how Modi explained its purpose in an interview:
This is going to be the tallest statue in the world – twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. I tell people, there are three things associated with Sardar Patel – one that he was the son of a farmer, second that he was known as the Iron Man of India, third that he made a big contribution to uniting India by bringing over 550 princely states together to merge with the Indian Union. He united India at the most trying time in our history when divisive forces were out to break up India into many pieces. He was also an exceptionally able administrator and sensitive to the plight of marginalized groups like the tribals.
People are surprised that I am collecting old pieces of Iron from all over India, but my intent is the same -- to unite people, to bring them together. That is why I’ve appealed to each village of India to contribute a small piece of used iron to be melted for making the statue of Sardar Patel as the Statue of Unity.
If a village wants to gift a sword or cannon for it, we will not accept that. As the son of a farmer we want a small piece of used farm implement from each village. We will melt it for use in that statue. That statue will be honoured as a symbol of India’s unity, because the 7 lakh villages of India would have contributed in its construction. It is through such symbolic things that we can unite people emotionally. My basic thought process is to bring about emotional unity among people. That is why such ideas come to me spontaneously.
But the place where his statue is going to be installed won’t be just be a tourist place as is the statue of Liberty. We are planning a world class knowledge hub in that area. My vision is to develop the place as a source of inspiration for ages to come.
Apart from tourist attractions like water sports and a live underwater aquarium, the area around Sardar Patel memorial will have a high-tech museum, chronicling 90 years of the history of India’s freedom fighters (1857-1947). Narendra Modi’s website says, “It will be developed as a research and academic centre for preserving the unity and integrity of India, its rich culture and heritage, for research on agriculture which was dear to the Sardar, for research on tribal life, and so on. Thus, it would be standing high not just in meters and feet but much more in terms of academic, historical, national and spiritual values.”
This project is likely to do for this relatively less developed tribal belt of Gujarat far more than what Rann Utsav has done for the backward Kutch region that brought unprecedented economic and cultural dynamism into the region. (Video Link: http://www.firstpost.com/topic/person/narendra-modi-statue-of-unity-a-short-film-video-ycr97Uic6BY-20711-1.html)