It’s ironic that most of the hoity toity opposing the Sardar Patel statue have been over the years gleefully posting their pictures with Statue of Liberty or with Christ Redeemer or Eiffel Tower or the umpteen Buddhas standing across the Indo-China..
Every now and then, we need such iconography strewn around the geography of the nation. What’s so wrong in it? Does being in the 21st Century mean that we stop creating any new historical icon for our future generations? National heroes like Patel, Shivaji or Ranjit Singh… or Gandhiji for that matter. Let statues or memorials come organically, for these are all that will remain of these great people after a few centuries…if not standing tall as statues, then as buried archaeological finds like Ashoka’s Edicts.
When Eiffel Tower was built, half of the eco-system of Paris opposed it; as a waste of money, as an eye-sore (bird dropping too perhaps); fact is that it has outlasted its critics and has become the symbol of a city, and even of the nation. Nothing wrong with India buildign a few such icons every century or so.. I see it as an opportunity.. India is not so poor as to not afford one now and than.
I am all for the Patel statue. I adore Patel, and I surely feel that his statue for posterity would do good over centuries, if it succeeds in uniting India, if it succeeds in telling people the story of how India was united into one.
What I am against, however, is this binary that is being created of Nehru vis a’ vis Patel. The binary is dividing people, and is an anti-thesis of the purpose of the statue. With morons of Congress denouncing the statue, and the Bhakts feeling the need to decry Nehru and Gandhi, just to justify the statue. Congress spokespersons opposing it is sadder though since BJP has co-opted Patel, precisely because Congress had forgotten Patel as a Congress icon.
People who create such binaries ought to know that Patel and Nehru were like the sides of the same coin; they complemented each other, loved each other and all the stability and unity that we now have today is owed to their TEAM, not to any one alone; be it the war on Hyderabad, the accession of Marwar or the accession of 550 other princes, Patel worked under delegation of powers by Nehru, with the moral authority of Nehru’s backing. Nehru messed up Kashmir, but people forget that Patel never wanted Kashmir into India in the first place (if one disputes, i can provide the references of contemporary journalists). Blaming Nehru for one failure while pinning all successes on the Home Minister reeks of a strong bias.
Hyderabad war had no role of Patel, he wasn’t the defence minister – it was entirely Nehru’s call. Okay, pin Hyderabad on Patel if you want to; but the war on Portugues over Goa, Patel as dead by then, surely he didn’t return from the ashes to take over Goa. Or Pondicherry, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman Diu! Come on, get a perspective.
Patel did play the heroes role, but Nehru was no passover; they were a team, a deadly team for India’s enemies.
Nehru was not a prince of the masses after 1947; I have his biography published in 1942, even then he was a leader with mass appeal; Patel was nowhere near him in terms of acceptability by masses. There was good reason for Nehru being chosen as first PM by the Constituent Assembly. Moreover, even if Patel had been the first PM, he died soon after independence – like Jinnah’s death created a vacuum after Jinnah’s death, the first PMs death just after Gandhi’s assassination would have been a recipe for disaster. .Nehru provided stability for 17 years after independence, during which time he had stupendous successes and monumental failures.
We must fete Patel, even more than ever. That doesn’t mean we must run down other icons of ours. India is standing on the shoulders of these giants; they don’t make people like them now.