The 138th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel unleashed a series of war of words between India’s governing and main opposition party over owning his legacy.
If you have been watching news for last few days, you would be aware that both Congress and BJP have been fighting over his legacy.
The primary questions being asked by everyone are: Who owns his legacy? Does the Congress own the legacy as he was a Home Minister in their government? Or does the BJP own his legacy as he united the nation by bringing all the princely states under Indian dominion? Or does it belong to the 1.2 billion Indians?
The saddest part is that the leader credited for unifying India is having to bear the brunt of divisive politics. The Iron man of India has become the “Irony Man”.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Modi were locked in an ideological battle over Sardar Patel. Modi wished that the ‘Iron Man’ had been India’s first prime minister and Dr. Singh underlining that Patel was a Congress leader and secular to the core.
The PM-in-waiting went a step ahead by proposing to build a museum and a huge statue of Sardar Patel, calling it a statue of Unity. The CM of Gujarat laid the foundation for 182-metre iron and bronze structure of India’s first Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on his 138th birth anniversary. This statue, which is being constructed at a cost of Rs. 2,074 crore, will be twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in the United States. The statue is to be built on an island called Sadhu Bet on the river Narmada in Gujarat, the home state of both Sardar Patel and Modi.
Now, you might ask, what’s wrong with this statue?
You might argue that Congress has been building statues of Nehru, Indira and Rajiv over the years. Congress has been spending Crores of public money on the birth/death anniversary ads of these leaders. You might argue that Mayawati has built thousands of statues of Kanshi Ram, Elephant (her party symbol) or her own statues at the cost of exchequer. And then we have thousands of other statues of Gandhi, Ambedkar, NTR and many other leaders spread across the nation. When all these leaders can have statues built using public money, what’s wrong with one more statue?
Here is what I think:
By opting to build a statue at the cost of tax payer’s money, the BJP or Modi have given up their moral ground to criticize Congress for spending crores of public money on building memorials for Nehru and Gandhis. They are doing exactly the same thing: waste public money for their political gains. By spending this crazy amount of money that could have transformed a thousands of lives with food, medicine, education and security, BJP has proved that its just another party in the arena.
What Mr Modi is trying to do is: playing the card of “Gujarati Asmita”. The message is subtly conveyed that Congress failed to give due credit to a son of Gujarat and Modi did it. It is very crafty move. Congress will always refrain from criticizing the move, lest it will be branded as anti-Sardar and risk completely conceding Sardar’s legacy to BJP. It is a win-win for Modi and Congress.
Whose money is it anyway?
Beginning with the Ads on television channels or newspapers to publicize the construction of the statue to the foundation laying ceremony, public money is being spent at leisure without the consent of the people who paid the taxes. And it doesn’t stop here. The cost of building the statue will escalate based on the market fluctuations of Iron price and other raw materials. And then, imagine the huge security that will be deployed to protect the statue. Public money will be wasted at every step henceforth.
I feel that Modi has no intention to have the statue built. Once elections are over, Modi will dump Sardar Patel into the Narmada and move on to next big thing that will fetch him votes.
I believe that Indians are very reluctant to learn from history. If we peep into our own history, we would realize that Shah Jahan, the emperor who built Taj Mahal went bankrupt after spending huge money on a monument built in the memory of his wife. And the entire country had to bear the brunt of famines that followed.
And, its not just about Modi who will be building a statue. The Maharashtra Govt or Shiv Sena is proposing to build a “grand” statue of one of the most divisive figures in India’s post-Independent history, Bal Thackray. Who gives them the right to splurge 1000’s of crores? Do they get this right to spend our money because we have elected them?
Don’t be surprised if Mamata Banerjee starts a project for building a much higher statue of Netaji. And then the other sheep might follow her in building more statues.
The most important questions are:
- Where will you draw the line on “careful spending”?
- Can statues symbolize unity?
- Do monuments have a role in Nation Building?
- Is there a need to create pride for the nation when thousands are living below poverty line?
In a country where millions are poor and hungry, Crores are being spent on statues which are made only for strengthening vote-banks. The people of India don’t care for such gimmicks, neither they get any benefits out of these life-less statues.
I feel the money should be wisely spent. India is not that rich country that we can afford to spend on a statue. The irony is: on one hand the government comes up with food security bill to feed the poor and on the other hand, the same government wastes scarce funds on life-less statue.
What can we do to stop this?
How many of us have actually lodged a Public Grievance on either or both of these issues, statue as well as ads?
Yes, you can lodge a complaint with PMO, President’s office and on Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Your Government is waiting to hear from you, from all over the World, and will be glad to do something about it. And you have a responsibility to stop this menace. Lets raise our voice. Let’s reclaim what is rightfully ours. Let’s reclaim our democracy.
Lodge a formal grievance on these portals:
- President’s portal: http://www.helpline.rb.nic.in/GrievanceNew.aspx
- PM’s portal: http://pmindia.nic.in/feedback.php
- Grievance portal : http://pgportal.gov.in/Grievance.aspx
- Depart of Expenditure
- Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
I have lodged my protest with all the 4 departments.
As a Citizen of India, I object to the spending of huge of public money on Advertisements in Print/Electronic media to commemorate the Birth/Death Anniversaries of Politicians. As a tax paying citizen, I believe that the government should not be wasting public money on placing such ads that are not in the larger public interest. If any political party wishes to do so, let them spend the money from their own party funds, but not from public money. I request you to come up with a policy to monitor the wastage of public money on these useless ads. Also, the government should not be investing public money in building memorials and statues. Instead, use the same money to build houses for the poor, build schools in villages or lay roads to the nooks and corners of this country.
Request you to look into this issue and initiate necessary measures to stop this wastage of our money.
Here are the screenshots:
Department of Expenditure:
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting: