Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Thursday dismissed the spat over Sardar Patel’s legacy with his one liner ‘it’s unfair to associate Patel with one Party’ and thanked Prime Minister for identifying Patel as a true secular.
He stressed that the country today needed Patel-like secularism and not “vote-bank secularism” to move ahead in the world and that is what the government should strive for.
He was addressing a gathering at the foundation laying ceremony of 183-metre tall iron statue of India’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel-- 'the Statue of Unity', at Kevadia in Narmada district.
Modi alleged that despite repeated requests to the Prime Minister, the gates on Sardar Sarovar Dam had not been constructed. Indicating that this was due to politics and discrimination against Gujarat, he said the Centre and the Congress could take all the credit for it but should build the gate without any further delay.
Taking on the Prime Minister for his comments on October 29 that he was proud that Patel belonged to his party, Modi said, "Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru are highly respected. Were they BJP members? Will only those who belong to the BJP be given respect and honour. The country is greater than the party and those who sacrifice themselves for the country are even greater."
He emphasised that nobody, not even him, could deny that Patel belonged to a party but his stature was such that he was respected by all.
"We should not divide our legacy," Modi said and added, “I would really like to honour the Prime Minister for saying that Patel was truly secular. We also say that Patel was truly secular. The country needs Patel's secularism and not votebank secularism. He was secular yet his secularism did not come in the way of building the Somnath Temple. Mr Prime Minister, the country needs secularism that does not divide the country but unites it."
Modi said Patel had not discriminated against the rulers-who belonged to different religions, communities, traditions and linguistic backgrounds- while integrating the country.
Citing the example of Bhimrao Ambedkar, Modi said he was a God-like figure for Dalits and the weaker sections but his life and his struggle served as an inspiration for all.
Modi attacked the "secular" parties by invoking Mahatma Gandhi. "Gandhi had fought to end untouchability. But another untouchability still exists and that is political untouchability. We need to end it."
Referring to the on-going clamour among parties to own Patel's legacy, Modi said, "A party or an organisation may gain politically from such fights but the country's pride is hurt in the process."
Modi recalled that when he initiated the process to construct a Mahatma mandir in the name of Gandhi nobody "challenged" him that a BJP leader should not do it. "But why this problem now?" he asked.
Modi thanked Advani for gracing the occasion. Earlier, in his speech, Advani praised Modi, saying it gave him a great joy to be present at the inauguration of this project by a person chosen by his party as its PM candidate.
All about Patel's statue
Modi wrote on his blog on Wednesday that "Sardar Patel's birth anniversary would be even more special because we (Gujarat government) are going to lay the foundation stone of the Statue of Unity".
"At a height of 182 metres, the State of Unity would be among the tallest statues in the world, celebrating and paying tributes to the Iron Man of India. It would be situated at Sadhu Bet, which is close to the Sardar Sarovar Dam," he wrote.
"The statue is being built through the PPP model, using the latest technology. A few months ago, I had appealed to my farmer sisters and brothers from all over India to contribute their iron tools they used in farming to build the statue."
"After all, Sardar Patel was not only a Loh Purush (Iron Man) but also a Kisan Putra (son of a farmer). I once again appeal to everyone to support us in this endeavour," Modi wrote in his blog.
The Statue of Unity will be double the size of that of Statue of Liberty (93 metres) in the US and four times higher than the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro.
The first phase, for which bids have already been invited, is estimated to cost around Rs. 2,063 crore, which would involve construction of the main statue, a bridge connecting the statue to the river bank and reconstruction of the 12-km road along the bank.
"We plan to develop it in two phases. The first phase is expected to be completed in 42 months after the allotment of work to a suitable party. Presently, global tenders are being invited till November 30. After evaluation of these tenders, the work will be allotted," officials said.
The proposed 182-metre statue will be erected on a small rocky island called Sadhubet in the middle of the Narmada riverbed facing the Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia.
The statue will have steel framing, reinforced cement concrete (RCC) and bronze coating.
State tribal development and forest minister Ganpat Vasava, who is also the in-charge of Narmada district, said, "There will be two lifts in the statue and a balcony in the eye of the statue. Visitors can view the beautiful natural surroundings and the Sardar Sarovar Dam from such a height".
The entire project will include the statue, a memorial park at the base of the statue, an artificial reservoir between the dam and Garudeshwar town, besides a visitor facilitation centre and reception desk at Kevadia.
The Statue of Unity, is being undertaken by the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), headed by Modi himself.
(with inputs from agencies)