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Vallabhbhai Stands Tall For United India 146 Years Later

Sunday, 11th July 2021


At one of the points where the 800 miles majestic journey of the Narmada River across India is suspended by a tiny island, the Bet-Sadhu, stands a man who is 597 feet tall. It is the tallest statue in the world. This is the man who is the Statue of Unity: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He is ensconced in a topographical embrace by the Vindhyacal mountain ranges and the Satpura mountain ranges. These mountain ranges join in salute to the 182 metres tall figure; with the Vindhyacal  mountain ranges running across India from east to west in rendezvous with the Satpura mountain ranges running east from this topographical terrain into Maharashtra. The 146 year old man is a complete replica of the mortal who was a giant in the political and economic development of India. The Statue of Unity epitomises his life and contribution to India and is, according to Prime Minister Modi, a salute to the great spirit of the Indian nation and capacity of Indian people to unite as one, to act as one, to endure and to prevail.

The location of one of the founding fathers of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai,  the paragon of strength and courage in the remote tribal and forest area of Narmada District in south eastern Gujarat, is an apt summary of the cause of freedom in its entirety which Patel spearheaded in his life. The first act of freedom by Patel in 1918 was to organise the so-called tribals, farmers as well as landowners for freedom from unfair taxes levied by the colonial power. Ten years later he organised similar protests and attracted the eye of the British colonial establishment which marked him as an enemy. And he was to continue his protests upon becoming fully immersed in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He metamorphosed into a lead figure in demanding for an end to colonialism; earning jail sentences in 1940, 1942 and 1945 for his pains.  Young Vallabhbhai who had studied law at Middle Temple, London and had returned home to become the much respected sharp legal brain of colonial Ahmedabad, had matured into a freedom fighter for India. The sophisticate of Gujarat Club had exchanged his British dandy suits for the white attire of the Indian peasant; with Gandhi as his social and political model.

Pursuing the greater goal of freedom for India rather than his own personal gain, Sardar Patel twice gave way to Jawaharlal Nehru in the top leadership of the Indian National Congress. In the formation of an independence government, Vallabhbhai contented  himself with becoming Deputy Prime Minister; and thereafter occupied other senior cabinet positions, including internal affairs. It is during the critical formative months of creating a post-colonial state that his sharp brain and persuasive powers were to prove crucial to the shape of the country that would emerge from British Raj India.  Sardar Vallabhbhai it was who pulled all the strings as well as the hearts and minds of independent state leaders of British India, into one union that would become the India that endures to this day.

 Though a nationalist,  to the day of the construction of the Statue of Unity, the local people of Gujarat claimed their son. They brought in farmers tools and equipment which the young Vallabhbhai had used to work on the farm of his parents. These have gone into the construction of the Statue of Unity; while a few are to be found in its museum.  In this respect the location of the statue in a tribal area is most appropriate. Tribal areas in India are the next frontier of challenges which confront an India which today  is on an accelerated pace of economic growth and development. The location of  the Vallabhbhai Statue is a fundamental recognition of the need to pursue balanced socio-economic development in this vast country of billions of people some of whom are referred to as tribals. The man who has been immortalised in the Statue of Unity would have approved that no one was left behind. He would therefore have saluted both the State of Gujarat and Central Government of India in their pursuit  opening up remote so-called tribal regions as Kevadia through the provision of better connectivity, healthcare, education, infrastructure, agricultural development and tribal arts and culture.

The conception and dedication of the Statue of Unity to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel came from Prime Minister Modi during his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat. It was pursued relentlessly by his successors. When a Uganda High Commission delegation visited him in his office last week, the current Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Honourable Vijay Rupani, called the Statue of Unity and its construction a monument for the indomitable spirit and limitless ability of the Indian people.