Politics over the statues of national heroes proposed by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is reaching new heights with the 2014 general elections inching closer.
While Gujarat chief minister and BJP prime ministererial candidate Narendra Modi has decided to build a statue of Sadar Vallabhbhai Patel on the Narmada River, the Congress government in Maharashtra has announced that it will construct an effigy of Shivaji on the Arabian Sea and a memorial of Bhimrao Ambedkar at Indu Mills, Mumbai.
Clearance from the environment ministry under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) is mandatory for all the three projects.
The ministry has approved the 350-feet high Shivaji statue on 18 hectare rock in the Arabian Sea despite ecologists crying foul, enabling the Congress to keep a poll promise made nine years ago.
The effigy will be taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York. The state had initially planned a 312-feet high statue, but increased the height as Modi announced a 597-feet long statue of Sardar Patel at Sadhu Bet, an island situated 3km away from Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The ministry, however, has asked Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority whether the Modi government had sought permission.
"The usually prompt Gujarat government is yet to reply," a ministry functionary said. Depending on the state government's reply, the ministry may initiate proceedings.
Another fillip to the Congress came a fortnight ago when the Union Cabinet approved the transfer of land — originally owned by Indu Mills — to the Maharashtra government to build a memorial for Bhimrao Ambedkar, known as the father of Indian constitution. Ambedkar's ashes are at Chaitya Bhoomi near Indu Mills.
The Maharashtra government also plans to build a statue of Ambedkar there. Dalit groups in Gujarat have asked the Maharashtra government to construct the world's tallest statue for Ambedkar, putting pressure on the BJP's PM nominee.
The environment ministry said the proposed project did not fall in the no-development zone of 500 meters from the coast of a sea.