A life-size statue of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, vandalised during the previous SAD-BJP government’s tenure, has been awaiting re-installation in Moga town of Punjab for the past 20 months, despite being repaired.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and other Congress leaders have reacted angrily to the incident Tuesday in which two YAD workers vandalised a statue of Rajiv Gandhi in Ludhiana.
But the repaired Moga statue has been all but forgotten by the government, despite repeated entreaties by Dr Malti Thapar, former Punjab Women Congress president that it should be re-installed now that it has been set right. At the moment, it is lying in the workshop of sculptor Manjit Singh in Ghal Kalan village in Moga who repaired it in 2017.
Manjit Singh told The Indian Express that the statue was sent to him soon after the Congress government took over in the state in March 2017. “ It is made of fibre-glass and steel. It had been damaged by stoning. I repaired it in a fortnight. Since then it has been lying wrapped waiting for the government to collect it. I have been sending them reminders. When I kept on giving them reminders, a team from Improvement Trust in Moga came to me in February this year, handed me a cheque worth Rs 16,500, loaded the statue in a truck and took it. But they returned with it in less than two hours and told me that they did not have a secure place to keep it. Hence, they would come back to collect it. Nobody came back after that. It is now in my safekeeping,” he said.
Two birth and death anniversaries each of Rajiv Gandhi have passed since the Congress returned to power in the state. The government observed his birth anniversary this year as Sadbhavna Diwas also but there is no talk about re-installation of the statue.
“I am yet to look into the matter. I have asked the officials concerned to put up the file to me. I cannot say what was the reason that delayed re-installation was. Whatever little information I gathered was that it was damaged,” Sandeep Hans, Deputy Commissioner, Moga said.
The statue, installed in Block Market of Moga, was vandalised twice, once on December 1, 2013 and later on December 8, 2015. In 2013, ink was strewn on it and a portion was broken. In 2015, the statue was pelted with stones.
After the second time, the Moga district administration had it removed from the Block Market and placed it in the store of Improvement Trust office. Dr Thapar said she had been demanding custody of the statue from the district administration but she was told that since the statue was installed at a public place, it was a public property.
“I am trying my best. I have now spoken to the party headquarters in Chandigarh. I hope something will be done soon. I am concerned that he was not only our party’s icon but a popular leader of masses. And we are not treating his statue well,” she said.
She added that she was willing to get the statue of the former PM installed in the auditorium of her private Sham Lal Thapar College of Nursing. The auditorium has been named after Rajiv Gandhi. “It would be a befitting tribute as it would be looked after well.”
She said the party had earlier got it removed from Block Development Office where it was not well-kept. It was then shifted to Block Market. That is where it was vandalised twice.
In October, 2017, a controversy erupted when the Punjab Youth Congress installed a statue of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi in Congress Bhawan in Ludhiana. Radical Sikh organisations and opposition launched an attack on the Congress stating the leader, who had ordered a military operation on Golden Temple, was being eulogised by the Congress government in the state.
Rajiv Gandhi’s statue was installed in 2006 by Ranwinder Singh Pappu Ramuwala, the then district Congress president of Moga, when Congress was in power and Amarinder Singh was Chief Minister.