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BJP to launch Ekta Yatra as tribal organisations call for stir over unveiling of Sardar Patel statue

The local tribal organisations have called a day-long bandh on October 31, the same day when the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is slated to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2018 00:00 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
The under construction statue of unity stands facing Sardar Sarovar Dam is seen at Kevadiya Colony, about 200 km from Ahmedabad on October 18.(AP File Photo)

As the countdown to the unveiling of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue on October 31 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins, some local tribal organisations are gearing up for a showdown with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

While the local tribal organisations have called a day-long bandh on October 31, the BJP is planning a mega event where people from 5,000 villages are likely to attend. These villages are part of the state government’s Ekta Yatra, launched to create awareness about Sardar Patel’s contribution in uniting India.

The inauguration of the statue – touted as the world’s tallest – on Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, is being seen as the beginning of Modi’s campaign for a second term after 2019 general election.

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani on Friday said Indians would have required visas to visit Junagadh and Hyderabad had Sardar Patel not taken tough action against the Nawab-ruled states and merged them with the Indian Union. Tribals and Patels, however, accused Modi of misusing Patel’s legacy to get votes.

About 72 villages in nine tribal districts — from Umargon in south Gujarat to Ambaji in the north — will observe a bandh on October 31. Not only are the local residents unhappy with being relocated, they claim that a Rs 2500-crore statue has no meaning in a district lacking basic amenities.

“On October 31, lakhs of tribals will march towards the statue to protest. The villages will observe a bandh and the natives will not cook. The name of Sardar Patel has been misused to collect votes...,’’ claimed Praful Vasava, a tribal leader, adding that a letter to this effect has been sent to the descendants of Sardar Patel.

Vasava claimed that to build a four-lane road between Vadodara and Kevadiya, several thousand trees were cut. Moreover, many tribals were displaced to construct the Garudeshwar weir and other amenities in the area. “A week ago, 200 families from Kevadiya town were shifted to Kaba village and they were not offered money or land...,’’ said Sanjay Tadvi, a resident of Kevadiya village.

Government officials have debunked his claim. “We have initiated process for land allotment and a financial package of Rs 7.5 lakh per hectare in case the affected person doesn’t want land in exchange. Families will also get a plot to construct a home and Rs 5 lakh compensation,” said Narmada district collector R Ninama.

BJP called stir a conspiracy to hurt Gujarati asmita (pride). “Congress is behind all this... tribals are with us,’’ said BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya.

The Congress alleged that the BJP failed all communities. “On issues ranging from education to employment, tribals are unhappy,’’ said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 23:20 IST