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Construction Begins on World's Tallest Statue, in Modi's Gujarat

Vallabhbhai Patel

At 600 feet tall it will be the world’s largest statue, taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha, the current record holder, and twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty in New York. But despite its impressiveness, the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, construction on which began Thursday, won’t avoid controversy.

Patel was India’s first Home Minister after independence from Britain. Called the “Iron Man of India,” Patel is revered especially in his home state of Gujarat, where the statue is being erected. With Gandhi, Patel led the opposition to British rule in Gujarat, was arrested a number of times and became an important fund-raiser and leader in the Congress party. Gandhi persuaded him not to contest Nehru for the position of India’s first prime minister, and out of respect Patel stepped aside. His chief legacy stems from his role as Home Minister. He had a powerful skill in persuading India’s princely states and provinces (there were hundreds of them) to join the Republic of India. If it weren’t for Patel, India today might look a lot different.

Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister, and his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, celebrate Patel for this and something else. To the BJP Patel is more than the lead architect of Indian unification, he is a figure opposed to what the Congress party has become: a clan of Nehru’s descendants who have ruled India off and on since independence.

The Statue of Unity, as it will be called, will be built on an island in Narmada River, made of concrete and steel with a “rich bronze” facade. Superfast elevators will whisk tourists to Patel’s head, where they will be able to view the surrounding villages and countryside. “The world will be forced to look at India when this statue stands tall,” Modi announced. Many of the villages in the area around the statue are undeveloped and poor.

“If you want to build a statue of unity, then build it in your heart first,” retorted a Congress leader in Delhi.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia]

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