The world’s tallest statue was inaugurated on Wednesday in India, a $400-million effigy of independence hero Vallabhbhai Patel that towers nearly twice the height of New York’s Statue of Liberty.
The 182-metre (597-ft) steel and bronze “Statue of Unity”, in the prime minister’s western home state of Gujarat, is part of his Hindu nationalist party’s efforts to re-brand what it calls “forgotten” leaders.
Funds for the construction of the statue came from the federal government, state-run companies and other institutions. It was constructed in 33 months by Larsen & Toubro Ltd.
The statue depicts the bald Patel in traditional attire, with a shawl over the shoulders, the statue used 210 000 cubic metres of cement, 25 000 tonnes of steel and 1 700 tonnes of bronze.
Some of the leaders Modi has branded as “forgotten” came from the opposition Congress party, and fought for independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1947.
Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are reaching back into history for alternatives to the heroes of the Nehru-Gandhi family that dominated Congress. The BJP says Congress has deliberately ignored leaders like Patel, B.R. Ambedkar, who led the drafting of the constitution, and freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose.
The accusations distort history, says Congress, which ruled India for much of its independence history and is now led by Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
It is contrary that a statue of Sardar Patel is being inaugurated while every institution he helped build is being smashed, Gandhi said via Twitter.
“The systematic destruction of India’s institutions is nothing short of treason.”
Modi has been criticised for his expenditure on the statue complex because it comes at a time when the adivasi indigenous people who farm the land acquired for it are in economic straits and have protested against it.