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Statue of Unity: Resurrecting memory of Iron Man abandoned by Dynasty

Monday, November 05, 2018
By Virendra Kapoor

Petty arguments do not detract from his stellar role in the making of India

Of all the arguments against the Sardar Patel statue, the one that had he been alive he would have  disapproved  sounds  most preposterous. Which icon, historic, cultural, literary, etc., while still alive would be so immodest? Probably, leaving aside  Tamil Nadu, where they have  a relatively recent history of building statues of minor or major political figures and even of cine stars while they are still  around,  India  by and large has not  put up statutes of the living persons.

Of course, the exception that readily  comes to mind is the plethora of statues the BSP leader  Mayawati erected  in UP  of her coiffed and Berkin-bagged self and her mentor Kanshi Ram while the latter was still alive. But, then, she can be excused for rationalising a lot of egregious things which she does in the name of Dalit upliftment, with her and her own extended family’s upliftment having been all along uppermost in her mind.   

Another equally facetious argument concerns the cost of the statue. That  Sardar deserved to be remembered, especially in his own home state,  is beyond question. The cost, therefore, is irrelevant. Those arguing  that he was `a simple man, dressed in dhoti-kurta and was a devotee of Gandhi ’ and, therefore,  would have baulked at the very idea of Rs. 2,989 crores being spent on his statue, seem to have no clue about the  thousands of crores  this country has spent on erecting memorials to Gandhi himself. 

Statues of Gandhi’s another  acclaimed disciple, Nehru, are far more numerous than anyone else’s. Indeed, a  mid-sized memorial industry  had come to  flourish   for deifying him, especially when his daughter Indira Gandhi,  and, later, his grandson, Rajiv, came to control the levers of power. To the exclusion of every other member of the pantheon of leaders of the freedom movement, Nehru memorials easily outnumber those for all others put together.

After him, it was the turn of  Indira’s and later Rajiv’s statutes. These   become de rigueur for the Congress administrations keen to keep the latter’s widow in good humour.  The little twits advertising  bad upbringing  tweeting about bird-dropping on the newly-erected Sardar statute, should bone up on the costly self-love of the Nehru-Gandhi parivar before poking fun at the most worthy attempt to revive and renew the memory of the Iron Man.  And do not forget the memorial was conceived  by the Gujarat Government in 2010, and its foundation laid  by L K Advani in 2013. Ironically, Advani was nowhere to be seen when  Modi, now the Prime Minister, inaugurated it on  Sardar’s birthday on October 31.       

And, if you must know, the proposal to  erect the  tallest Shivaji statue off the Mumbai coastline  was approved with great fanfare by the Congress-NCP government of Vilasrao Deshmukh. Quite clearly, logic is not a strong suit of the Congress’s  megaphones.   Relegated as a mere footnote in the nation’s history, Sardar was cheated  of prime ministership by a fellow Gujarati who suffered from a deep complex about western education and western mores. Earlier, Sardar’s innate  decency and self-denial  had led him to  clear the way for  Nehru to become the Congress President twice, though  both times  Sardar had won  an overwhelming support of the party.  Gandhi’s inherent weakness for a westernised Nehru was on display on both occasions  --- as it was when it came to the post of prime ministership when more than three-fourths of the Congress Party wanted Patel to occupy that post. Gandhi was not without his faults, by the way. In South Africa he revealed a racial bias, protesting not so much  the discrimination against Indians as the humiliation he felt for being clubbed with the Blacks.   

So, let us not grudge the belated justice to the memory of  Sardar. If the question of expense on the statute is relevant now, why wasn’t it  trotted out by the brave defenders of the public purse when myriad  buildings, precious lands, museums and parks et al were earmarked for perpetuating the memory of the founder and various members of the Dynasty? Nehru accepted the Bharat Ratna within a year of that award being constituted. Patel had to wait for a non-dynasty Congressman  to head the government for being given his Ratna. Also, this glib talk of the ruling party appropriating the Sardar  legacy sounds hollow, especially when his contributions in the freedom movement and, later, to the task of nation-building were deliberately reduced to a little footnote by the Nehru-Gandhi family. If his memory had become an orphan, the BJP, or, for that matter,  anyone else, ought to be commended for rescuing it for acknowledging his huge legacy and granting him his rightful place in the nation’s history.  Congress Party was not a one-family property before Independence;  it was an all-embracing freedom struggle in which elements of all political hues found place. Organisations still to be born  could not be blamed for not being part of the struggle.     

To the cringing sycophants denying  that there was any attempt to denigrate the Sardar, the following quote from a  well-known commentator should help clarify things.  Writing  about how the successful execution of  the Bardoli satyagraha (against the arbitrary  hike in the land revenue in 1928)  had earned Patel  the honorific Sardar,  Shreekant Sambrani writes, “ …  Gandhijis’s Salt March (1930) and the Quit India Movement (1942) were clear offshoots of the Bardoli Satyagraha. But the All-India Congress Committee commissioned five-volume compilation, ~ A Contemporary History of the Indian National Congress  (1886-85)~  edited by B N Pandey and released by Rajiv Gandhi, dismisses this in just a few lines in Volume II without mentioning Patel…”  Yes, without mentioning Patel.   

The above is the principal reason why the world’s tallest statute had to be erected by a grateful nation to  acknowledge the contribution of the man who had virtually single-handedly merged 550-odd princely states into the Indian Union.

Case of double standards
This seems neither  fair nor just. While those who find themselves entangled in the on-going #MeToo  blood-rush have become untouchable for their peers and the society at large, but someone who stands  accused of abetting his wife’s suicide(?) is being feted by the Page Three types and other notables. At least, no investigation as yet has confirmed the allegations of the  MeToo warriors emerging from the woodwork to enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame, while the police after painfully long investigations have charged Shashi Tharoor as an accused in the suicide of Sunanda Pushkar, his third wife.

If the argument that one  is innocent until convicted is valid,  then how come those named by the  MeToo women are being denied the same courtesy? Tharoor was a prominent  member of the then ruling party when his wife was found dead under most mysterious circumstances  in a five-star hotel, probably a major factor in the investigations being misdirected at the most crucial time. Years later, the charge-sheet lists him as an accused.

Yet, this has not prevented people from calling him for various high-profile dos  -- and the VVIPs from sharing   stage with the man accused of abetting the suicide of his wife. Now, did I hear you mutter double standards under your breath? You are right. It does smack of double standards.

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