Politics over the statues of national heroes proposed by the Congress and the BJP is reaching new heights with the 2014 general elections inching closer. The battle is not just about whose statue will be taller but has also become a race to get environmental clearance for the projects — which the Congress seems to be winning.
While the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has decided to build a statue of Sadar Vallabhbhai Patel on the Narmada River, the Congress government in Maharashtra has said it will construct a statue of Shivaji on the Arabian Sea and a memorial of Bhimrao Ambedkar in Mumbai.
Clearance from the environment ministry under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) is mandatory for the three projects.
Despite opposition from ecologists, the ministry gave its nod to the 350-feet Shivaji statue, which will be built on an 18 hectare rock outcrop in the Arabian Sea. The approval allows the Congress to keep a poll promise made 9 years ago. The statue will be taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York.
The statue was originally planned to be 312-feet high, but was increased after Modi announced a 597-feet long statue of Sardar Patel at Sadhu Bet, an island located 3km from Sardar Sarovar Dam.
However, the ministry has asked the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority to clarify whether the Modi government has sought permission.
“The usually prompt Gujarat government is yet to reply,” a ministry official 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 transfer of land — originally owned by Indu Mills — to the Maharashtra government to build a memorial for Bhimrao Ambedkar. His ashes are interred at Chaitya Bhoomi near the 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 Modi.
The green ministry said it had given its go ahead to the project as the memorial did not fall in the no-development zone of 500 meters from the sea coast.