GANDHINAGAR: Former Gujarat chief minister and Shankersinh Vaghela has taken a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his ambitious ‘Statue of Unity’ project and called it a “marketing gimmick” of the BJP government.
The veteran Gujarat leader even asked the PM to first unite the CBI and the RBI – both are currently at the loggerheads with the Centre – before unveiling the ‘Statue of Unity’, which is a tribute to the country’s first Home Minister Sardar Valabhbhai Patel.
“Which unity are you talking about?” the former BJP leader asked while talking to reporters here. “First unite the CBI, the RBI. Unite for saving the downfall of the Indian rupee, unite for bringing down fuel prices,” he said.
The caustic remarks from the veteran leader came at a time when the Prime Minister is slated to unveil 182-metre ‘Statue of Unity’ – the tallest statue in the world – at Kevadia in Narmada district on the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel on Wednesday.
Further commenting on the reported infighting between the top brass of leading institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Vaghela said that the PM should deal with this crisis first and then speak of unity.
“When you are talking about Sardar, release the jailed Patidar youth,” Vaghela asserted, referring to Alpesh Kathiriya, a close associate of firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who is in jail on sedition charges.
PAAS leader Hardik Patel too faces similar charges.
“There can be no comparison between the simplicity and austerity of the ‘Iron Man of India’, Sardar Patel, and the construction and the motive behind the ‘State of Unity’. The project is of around Rs 3,000 crore, a sheer wastage and unproductive expense of public money when Gujarat is laden with a public debt of Rs 2,50,000 crore,” Vaghela said.
Vaghela, who was credited with building the BJP in Gujarat with Narendra Modi in tow in the late 80s and early 90s, asked, “Why the sudden love for Sardar whose very name you did not like once?”
Recalling a past instance, Vaghela said that there was a time when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and during an event on the naming of the Ahmedabad airport as the Sardar Patel International Airport, the BJP members dressed in black and waving black flags had vehemently opposed the event right in front of then Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.
“One shouldn’t have the impression that these people love Sardar… This is just using his name to market themselves. They make a hue and cry of injustice meted out to the Iron Man. When I met Maniben, Sardar Patel’s daughter, she said there was never any injustice to Sardar. He didn’t even have the aspirations to be the PM. Which injustice are you talking about?” asked Vaghela.
“I challenge these people to show me one instance of injustice to the great man,” he said.
“I see the unveiling of the Statue of Unity as a desperate attempt by the BJP to gain political mileage and nothing else. They are losing public support. Not a single work was done by this government in four-and-half years for the common man,” Vaghela said.
He stated that the ”tribals are unhappy, farmers are committing suicides… The government should listen to them before undertaking such a massive project.”