The loh daan (iron collection) drive for the proposed Statue of Unity is set to get a fresh push with the Narendra Modi-led government in Gujarat preparing to launch the second round of the campaign.
Early this week, a round of meetings was conducted by top ministers, including Revenue minister Anandi Patel and Finance minister Nitin Patel, to chalk out the plan. The second round will involve state departments, BJP workers and NGOs, besides an organised advertisement campaign.
The state Information department will conduct a nationwide drive through new audio-video documentaries featuring the BJP’s PM candidate that are likely to be aired on local and national television channels and other public platforms.
Sources said ministers and senior BJP leaders have given fresh instructions to party units to welcome the trucks that will bring back iron tools from farmers. The trucks, flagged off on December 28, carry nearly three-lakh empty kit boxes and are scheduled to visit seven lakh villages to collect specimen of soil and scrap-iron farm implements after prior intimation sent to 1.87 village panchayats.
NGOs have been asked to see that special gram panchayats for iron collection are arranged on time.
Meanwhile, party workers across Gujarat have started collecting “holy mud” from places of worship which will be used to lay the foundation of the statute. Last week, leaders in election wards were given three containers each and a bottle to collect mud from mosques, temples, gurdwaras and churches. In each of the 25 election wards, the BJP leaders are said to have collected the mud from all religious places.
Vadodara MP, Balkrishna Shukla, said the drive gives cities the experience of “partaking in the major feat” of the Statue of Unity. Shukla, who has been gathering support from villages around Vadodara for contribution of iron towards the statue said, “Villages will contribute metal as well as mud while cities will contribute mud. This drive will be undertaken across all major cities of the country.”
Slamming the view of the critics that this as an exercise to transform Modi’s image, city BJP president Bharat Dangar said, “Modi is a secular leader. He does not need to prove that. Even after the SIT has given him a clean chit, if there are people who think he is communal then there is something wrong with their mind.”
Meanwhile, heads of various places of worship in the city were more than willing to help. The head of one of the prominent religious places in the city from where the BJP leaders collected the mud said, “When they approached us for the mud, we willingly gave it away.We are all for peace and unity no matter what form it is in. The concept of collecting something from each and every part of the country and creating one single structure is definitely something significant, whatever be the reason behind it.”