The Politics of Statues

The Statue of Liberty will soon be dwarfed by not one, but two statues that will be built in India- the Chhartrapati Shivaji and Sardar Patel statues. These sky-high statues will even overtake the tallest statue of Buddha-Laykyun Setkyar, Mynammar in the run of the world’s tallest.

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Amidst the politics of demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of a 192 metre statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea, just off Mumbai’s coast at a whopping cost of Rs 3,600 crores. But even before the foundation ceremony, Shivaji Smarak, as it is to be called was surrounded by criticism.

Online petition slams the construction as a mere waste of money and resources. More than 40K petitions have been signed on Change.org and they state the issues of poverty, farmer suicides, poor drainage not looked after while the government invests the tax-money into the construction of a memorial. Also, environmentalists point out the marine life degradation that the construction will cost. Modi’s sudden currency swap two months ago has led to severe cash shortages, bank limits on withdrawals, an industrial slump and layoffs raise eyebrows on the project’s capital. Also, it comes ahead of the high-stake elections in Maharashtra in February 2017.

The Statue of Unity- the 182-metre metal statue of Sardar Patel is also in progress. As Modi government came into power in 2014, they announced the making of this statue in Gujarat and earmarked a part of the annual budget for its establishment. The people irked over the spending of Rs 2989 crores for this project. Ram Sutar, the sculptor of the two statues counter –argued on the criticism saying, “If people had worried about how much the Taj Mahal would cost, it would never have been built.”

Earlier in 2009, SP supremo Mayawati immortalized herself as she constructed her own statues along with mentor Kanshi Ram out of the state funds, across Uttar Pradesh during her tenure. Samajwadi Party kept on accusing Behenji of scams by triggering the condition of poor, weak and underprivileged in whose name many of these memorials are justified.

Not just construction, but incidents of breaking and removal of statues also add on to the wastage of money. Recently the statue of poet Ram Ganesh Gadhkari in Sambhaji Park, Pune was vandalized by the pro- Maratha Sambhaji Brigade over historical errors in his poems. Upcoming local elections in Pune activated all the parties. Bharatiya Janata Party corporators criticized the incident demanding the restoration of the garden. Congress pushed for an oil painting till the statue is restored. Pune Municipal Corporation will set up a new statue as early as possible to calm Punekars.

This making and breaking have questioned the dwindling economy after demonetization. The vote politics converting into the politics of statue has questioned the government.

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