Back in 2010 when then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had announced the Statue of Unity project

By Japan K Pathak, Gandhinagar: Then Chief Minister Narendra Modi had announced the Statue of Unity project on 6 October 2010 at GLS auditorium in Law garden area of Ahmedabad from BJP stage ahead of Municipal Corporation elections in the State, polling for which was scheduled on 10 October.
Modi in a press conference announced his government’s plan to install Sardar Patel’s 182 meter tall statue 3 km away from Narmada dam at a place called Sadhu bet. He had said that a research centre for good governance will come up within the statue complex. He had said one would be able to reach statue through boat ride in the river.

On the next day, main opposition Congress party held a press conference and argued that Modi’s announcement was breach of model code of conduct and Congress party would file complaint in this regard in the State Election Commission.

Then Congress party chief Siddharth Patel had argued that just four days before the election, when model code of conduct was in place, the Chief Minister was not allowed to make such announcement.

Siddharth Patel had also objected BJP election symbol lotus present on the cover of the Statue of Unity related press kit distributed among media persons in Modi’s press meet.

Congress’s press conference was countered by BJP through a press conference which was addressed by then BJP spokespersons IK Jadeja and Vijay Rupani.

They argued, “by objecting CM Modi’s announcement on proposed Sardar Patel statue, the Congress party has shown its real skin. Selfish, and family-worshiping Congress party never could tolerate Sardar Patel. Congress had problem in awarding Bharat Ratna to Sardar. It was BJP government that allocated money to install Sardar Patel’s statue in parliament campus. In view of this Congress’s objection to installation of Sardar Patel’s huge statue is not surprising, and it is as per its ‘anti-government tradition.’

In reference to a photo in which Sardar Patel was holding lotus flower (BJP’s election symbol), BJP spokespersons had said, “the Congress leaders are shaken seeing lotus in Sardar Saheb’s hand. But the picture of Sardar Saheb with lotus in his hand was taken even before independence of the country. At that time, BJP was not born even, and lotus was not BJP symbol. Even after knowing this, if Congress opposes Sardar Saheb, just because of the fact that there’s lotus in his hand in the picture (distributed to the press people with frame in Modi’s Wednesday press conference), the BJP can’t help.”

“Congress can continue to keep Sardar Patel in its list of politically not tolerable persons, but Congress will be never able to erase Sardar from the hearts of the people,” the spokespersons added.

It must be noted here that prior to Modi’s announcement on statue, news stories regarding this project were already published in the Times of India and other couple of publications on front page, months ago.

As Congress had lodged complaint in State Election Commission against ‘breach of model code of conduct’ Modi in one of campaign meetings in Ahmedabad said, ‘Tell me, if we want to pay tribute to Sardar Patel for his services to this nation, should there be any objection in doing so? Tell me, whether Sardar Patel was from BJP or RSS? Wasn’t he a Congress man? Then why these Congress people object when I announce installation of Sardar’s statue?”

“These Congress men would announce in their election manifesto to install Sohrabuddin’s statue in Ahmedabad’s Manek Chowk, and will tell the people to garland the statue with flowers everyday,” Modi added.

Reacting to Narendra Modi’s allegation that “Gujarat Congress objects Sardar’s statue”, the GPCC President Siddharth Patel had said, Sardar Saheb’s statue should be installed, and it is a welcome step, but the announcement of its installation prior to civic election, when code of conduct is effective, that too with BJP symbol on cover page, is objectionable.

It’s worth noting that in original plan, showcased by Modi in his October 2010 press meet, the bridge connecting to Sadhu Bet site of statue was not placed. It was announced that visitors would use boat to visit the statue at Sadhu bet. Also later the idea of good governance centre inside the statue complex was dropped. The standing posture of Sardar statue was also changed eventually.