Continuing his co-option of Congress leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as the BJP-led government’s icon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Patel on his 144th birth anniversary at the Statue of Unity in Kevadiya, Gujarat.
The Prime Minister will also participate in the “Ekta Diwas Parade” and administer the oath of national integration before heading to Vadodara in the evening. Raking up Article 370, PM Modi dedicated its abrogation to Sardar Patel. “Article 370 is a wall that has gone now,” PM Modi said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said today that Article 370 and Article 35A were the gateway of terrorism into Jammu and Kashmir which was closed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by abrogating them. Shah also said Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s unfulfilled dream of integrating Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country was accomplished on 5 August when Article 370 and 35A were repealed.
The BJP-led Modi government’s love for Sardar Patel is intriguing for many reasons. Patel was a Congress leader who, inspired by Gandhi’s principle of non-violence, led a great and very powerful movement of farmers at Bardoli taluka in 1928. This is known as the Bardoli Satyagraha and the then pro-British English Press described it as “Bolshevism in Bardoli” and Patel as its “Lenin”.
Patel was awarded the title ‘Sardar’ after this heroic struggle. This peasants’ movement started against the extortionate lagan imposed by the British rulers and landlords and selling of large tracts of agricultural land to moneybags of Bombay.
Sardar Patel led the movement but he had devoted Congressmen/women workers, both Hindus and Muslims, like Imam Saheb Abdul Kadir, Uttamchand Deepchand Shah, Mohanlal Kameshwar Pandya, Bhaktiba Desai, Darbar Gopaldas Desai, Meethubehn Petit, Jugatrambhai Dave, Surajbehn Mehta, Umar Sobani and Phoolchand Kavi, who challenged the colonial masters and their henchmen at the ground level.
One important fact to be noted is that the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS, which existed during this period, kept aloof from this historical struggle. Modi’s co-option of Patel, who was a prominent Congress leader of the anti-British freedom struggle, is part of a ploy of the Hindutva camp to be seen as part of the freedom movement despite having betrayed it. This kind of co-option game is likely to succeed as the Congress as a party has become indifferent to its anti-colonial legacy.
Meanwhile, Shah flagged off a run to commemorate Sardar Patel jayanti in Delhi. The ‘Run for Unity’, which began from the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, saw the participation of a large number of people, including sports personalities, sports enthusiasts and personnel of central police forces among others. The Modi-led government has been observing Patel’s birth anniversary as ‘Ekta Diwas’ or National Unity Day since 2014. Born on October 31, 1875, at Nadiad in Gujarat, Patel was India’s first Home Minister who is credited for the merger of over 560 states into the Union of India.
Shah said the decision to abrogate Article 370 and Article 35A was taken after the Narendra Modi government got a massive mandate in 2019 general elections. Referring to the ‘Statue of Unity’ of Patel located in Gujarat’s Kevadia, he said Modi sourced iron pieces from the farmers, soil from every village of Gujarat and water from various rivers to pay tribute to the man who unified India.
The 182-metre-tall Statue of Unity is standing tall on the misused social funds from the cash-strapped PSUs. A CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) report tabled in the Parliament on August 7, 2018 brought out serious irregularities in the use of social responsibility funds by the PSUs under the administrative control of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MPNG).
Central public sector undertakings Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Oil India Limited have been rapped by the CAG of India for contributing crores of rupees to the INR 3,000 crore Statue of Unity.
The apex auditor questioned the decision of PSUs to allocate part of their CSR funds for its construction, considering how the ad campaign “Statue of Unity – Loha Campaign – Kahani Har Gaon Ki” had positioned it as being built out of people’s contribution.