Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi met me on recently in Kochi. He was on his way to Trichur to attend the wedding of his secretary’s daughter. I was the only person he met in Kochi. Why? I am neither a politician nor do I have any judicial power. He came out of respect for me. I told him we won’t talk about politics and that there will be no closed-door discussions — everything will be in the public domain. He agreed. We talked about a range of public issues.
I appreciate Modi’s prohibition policy. I spoke to him about Gandhiji, who was born in Gujarat and made its soil sacred. He responded warmly and welcomed my idea of Gram Swaraj and village growth. I was impressed by his enthusiasm on the development of villages in his state. In Gujarat, agriculture has advanced, but not at the cost of industrial growth, he told me. Modi said he plans to do two things. First, to get a Mahatma Mandir built. This, he hopes, would be the starting point of all non-violent movements in the future. Second, he expressed his desire to erect the tallest statue of Sardar Patel, who performed the great task of unifying this country. I think both are great ideas.
Jawaharlal Nehru was a great visionary who struggled for socialist liberty, a creative dynamic swaraj that was aimed at eliminating poverty, generation of a socialist industrial employment potential, a healthy relationship between agriculture and industry, for Panchsheel foreign policy, for peace in the world, which would look up to Gandhiji’s ideals and vision. The chief minister of Gujarat echoed similar sentiments.
He, however, brightened while referring to Sardar Patel, who prevented the division of India and brought together all the 600 princely kingdoms under the British suzerainty. He understood the political dimension of advaita — the union of states into a single sovereign Republic, making it a political and geographical reality. Patel was the tallest patriot of India and hence Modi’s tribute to him by getting his statue built in Gujarat is a grand idea. Patel was indeed a great statesman. He was more than just a political strategist. Nehru was also a statesman of national stature and inspired many like me with his socialist ideology and vision of democracy. This was the fundamental difference between Patel and Nehru. A tall statue of Patel would be symbolic of the tallest patriot, who creatively evolved the supreme strategy of a Brave New Bharat with a vision, mission and passion that has inspired many generations and gave them a reason to be proud of India’s socialist, secular and democratic traditions.
VR Krishna Iyer is a former Supreme Court judge The views expressed by the author are personal