Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue in Kevadia, Gujarat, is now the world’s tallest statue. This is the most fitting tribute to the ‘Iron man of India’ who unified the country into one whole union called India or Bharat.

This is also the biggest slap for those who tried to weave the history of modern India around one family — the Nehru dynasty. The murmurs became louder when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the iconic statue on the 143nd birth anniversary of Sardar Patel. While India celebrated, many in the Congress cried foul. For the rest of the country, this was the resurrection of a hero that India had failed to give the respect he deserved.

India is gradually becoming more aware of heroes who contributed immensely to the freedom struggle and the emergence of Bharat as one strong nation. Many now say with confidence that Netaji was the first Prime Minister of India. After all, more than six international governments had recognised the Azad Hind Government in exile headed by Subhas Chandra Bose. 

After the declassification of secret files of Netaji, now it has become more evident that there was a systematic attempt to keep his contributions out of public memory.

Similarly, Congress had done everything to demolish the legacy of Babasaheb Dr BR Ambedkar. The father of the Indian Constitution had to wait till 1990 to get the Bharat Ratna. It was the non-Congress VP Singh government supported by the BJP that honoured him and his legacy. 

Then again, the Modi government announced the development of the famous five places with Babasaheb as the Panchteerth. This includes a memorial in Mhow where Amedbkar was born, London where he studied, ‘Deeksha Bhoomi’ in Nagpur, ‘Mahaparinirvan Sthal’ in Delhi, and ‘Chaitya Bhoomi’ in Mumbai. The NDA government has also set up the Ambedkar Foundation in New Delhi.

India today is celebrating these heroes and also those who were once consigned to the dustbin of history merely because their names would dwarf the contribution of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Genuflecting before India’s most powerful dynasty demanded that others not be given the same importance. The contribution of Lal Bahadur Shastri as Prime Minister, for instance, was completely ignored.

The Congress’ dynastic approach did not allow the Bharat Ratna to be conferred on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel either. It was 41 years after his death that the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who was not liked by the dynasty, honoured him with the award. 

In contrast, two Prime Ministers of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and Indira Gandhi, received the Bharat Ratna during their lifetime. The Congress did not even consider adorning the central hall of Parliament with Sardar Patel’s paintings. 
A befitting tribute to the Iron Man of India is the Statue of Unity that also uses iron implements from lakhs of farmers from all across India. These iron implements were melted and purified to create the foundation of the statue. PM Modi’s vision was that since the statue reflects a united India, every part of the country must contribute. 

When one looks at the gargantuan structure, one is forced to ask why this special homage. All we need to remember that had it not been for Sardar Patel, India’s geography would not have been what it is. India would have been divided into 550 plus independent sovereign state.

India always had cultural unity and often many parts of India were united under a single empire. It was Sardar Patel’s efforts that brought about geographical unity for modern India. How he did it makes for fascinating stories even today. The question, however, is: what course would India’s destiny have taken, if the Sardar, and not Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had become the Prime Minister of India?

Coming back to the Statue of Unity, close to 3,000 workers and 250 engineers worked overtime to create this miracle possible. About 129 tonnes of iron implements from 10 crore Indian farmers were used to build the massive structure that captured Modi’s vision of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat (One India Best India).

Nobody is bigger than the Sardar. Critics say that PM Modi is doing nothing extraordinary by honouring him. True as they are, the fact remains that the credit for giving his rightful place to Sardar Patel will always go to Modiji.

The writer is BJP national spokesperson