AS the head of the BJP election campaign committee,Narendra Modi is set to canvass for more than votes in the coming months. He is also seeking iron.
The Gujarat chief minister is building the tallest statue in the world for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,and his men will be launching a countrywide campaign with farmers soon to collect iron from their farming tools for it. With Modis ambitions shooting skyward,the statue will keep in step: for one,the designated height is 182 metres,the number of assembly seats in Gujarat; secondly,it is called the Statue of Unity,for the man credited with bringing in princely states to ensure India was a stable country; thirdly,it honours a leader from Gujarat on whom Modi openly models himself,and who is seen by some as having been unfairly denied prime ministership.
By getting farmers involved in this biggest ever project on any tribal land,he believes,he can establish a valuable emotional connect. Nearly 5,000 tonnes of steel will be needed for the Rs-2,000-crore project,titled Ek Bharat,Shresth Bharat. Videos are already circulating on the Net showing how it will be twice the height of New Yorks Statue of Liberty and five times that of Christ the Redeemer at Rio de Janeiro.
The Gujarat government,with the help of NGOs and village committees,will mobilise farmers to donate the iron pieces,which will be transported via post,or buses and trains.
Collection will be done at the district headquarters,from where iron pieces will go to regional centres. There will be around four such centres. Modi himself is likely to be present at these regional centres, said a government source.
Modi first announced the project on October 7,2010,at a press conference to mark the beginning of his 10th year as CM. However,since his elevation to a national role,both the statue and the project have got a revamp.
At the time of the announcement,videos concerning the project called it Gujarats tribute to the nation and showed a statue of the Sardar with his left arm folded. It also had a rare photograph of Patel holding the lotus (the BJPs symbol).
The second video,released on June 11 at an All-India Conference of Livestock and Dairy Development in Gandhinagar,saw changes. With farmers from 22 states,the video titled Ek Bharat,Shresth Bharat emphasised Patel as the son of a farmer. It also showed detailed clips of how he persuaded the royals of Kathiawar to cede to the Indian Union and formed the Saurashtra Sangh in 1947.
From Gujarats tribute in the first video,it starts calling the statue the nation paying tribute to the Iron Man,and details how farmers across villages in India will donate iron,which will be melted to be used on the memorial. The emphasis also shifts to 120 crore Indians.
The statue is planned on Sadhu Bet,an island facing the Sardar Sarovar dam in the tribal Narmada district.
The Indian arm of Turner Project Management which worked on the worlds tallest building,the Burj Khalifa of Dubai is one of the firms roped in for this project. Also part of the consortium are US-based Michael Graves and Associates Inc and German firm Meinhardt India Private Limited.
Modi himself chairs the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust that is executing it. The member secretary is K Srinivas,secretary of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd.
The bidding process will begin on July 15 and the iron-collection drive on October 31,the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel. It will go on till January 26,2014. The project is scheduled to be completed in 42 months.
However,not all the iron pieces donated by farmers will be used to build the main statue. Quality is an important factor. These will be sorted. The pieces not fit for the main statue will be used in other structures within the complex, said an official. If more iron is needed,it will be procured from the Steel Authority of India.
Senior BJP leaders believe that the grand project will keep attention of the rest of India focused on Gujarat and Modi. The collection of iron pieces from farmers will help Modi reach out to farmers in all the villages of India, said a top-level leader.
The secretary of the Gujarat unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh,Praful Senjalia,said farmers would be happy participating in the social cause.