The Statue of Disunity

Finally Prime Minister Modi unveiled the statue of (dis) unity as a tribute to Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel on his 143rd birth day on October 31 with a lot of fanfare. The 182 metre high statue, being the tallest in the world, built at a cost of around Rs 3000 crore, on 3 km downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam, is a blueprint for ecological disaster. The Dam has already caused massive displacement, some 35000 families are still waiting for full and fair rehabilitation. The statue itself occupies over 20,000 sq metres and is surrounded by a 12 sq km artificial lake. Modi has created a new tourist spot to honour the 'Iron Man' at the cost of tribal lives. The saffronites desperately need someone to ease their pro-British image during nationalist movement and Sardar may foot the bill in the coming parliamentary polls. The so-called 'Iron Man' was neither iron nor steel. The British negotiators were surprised when they succeeded so easily to manouvre him during talks over partition. By hijacking one of the stalwarts of nationalist movement while playing the binary between Sardar and Nehru they want to naturalise their collaborative past with the British during World War 2 against the national interest of Indian people. Patel fell in line with the British scripted communal award in no time though he had always been projected as an 'iron man' who opposed partition. What is said about his efforts to unify as many as 562 princely states is ludicrous—it was a Congress plan and he just executed it as a Congress man.

Land losers are mostly tribals. They protested against Modi's extravaganga in a unique way by releasing black balloons. What is more 73 villages around the vicinity of Sardar Statue didn't cook for a day in protest against the Statue which is a symbol of forcible acquisition of tribal people's land. The police in Gujarat arrested several tribal activists on October 30 in Narmada district to make Modi's dream project a hassle-free affair and arrested many persons who were still in custody at the time of writing.

The statue unveiling ceremony was an all Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) show business. Main opposition Congress was conspicuously absent. In truth Patel is no longer useful for the Congress party to garner votes; they didn't even raise mild protest against BJP's crude attempt to assimilate one of their icons. They just compared Gandhi statue's height with that of Patel's while allowing BJP to cash in on statue politics. Most left parties didn't react, barring CPI—they also much like the Congress expressed their displeasure for shorter height of Gandhi.

By standing taller Patel is not going to help Modi win elections. For BJP statue erection is no wastage of money. When Bahujan Samaj Party built statues to popularise dalit leaders and Ambedkar as a way to assert their rights to equity and dignity the BJP accused BSP of indulging in wastage of money.

At a time when Modi is harried at home on many a front Sardar statue comes as a short-term relief for public diversion to hammer on the theme of unity. The banking management is now an open area of bureaucratic friction while India's top intelligence is in doldrums. Even President Ramnath Kovind made some caustic comments over the recent developments in CBI and RBI. Kovind's observation, rather advice came amid RBI's deputy governor Viral V Acharya warned that undermining autonomy and independence of the central bank could be potentially catastrophic. There is nothing new in the allegation that the Modi dispensation ever since its inception four years ago has been systematically destroying autonomy of a number of institutions including RBI. Congress is focusing only on Rafale deal while non-Congress opposition parties have nothing to talk about other than Modi's lapses here and there. They talk less about how Modi has closed the doors of RTI to public litigants. Because of political parties' inertia to agitate for people's cause PIL seems to be the only option before the public to express their voice of dissent.

Neither Rafale nor Patel will ultimately decide the fate of 2019 parliamentary elections. Much depends on the swing in the corporate camp. Ex-facie it appears that they have not yet lost faith in Modi, their blue-eyed boy who is supposed to deliver. The hard fact is that opposition parties are reluctant or averse to the idea of sustained mass movement against Modi's anti-people policies, they hope somewhat against hope to bounce back in a hopeless situation by default. In absence of effective opposition the BJP is happy to indulge in their usual game of communal polarisation and cheap populism.


Vol. 51, No.19, Nov 11 - 17, 2018