GANDHINAGAR: Former Gujarat Chief Minister and expelled rebel Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela on Monday mocked at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his ambitious Sardar Patel's "Statue of Unity" project dubbing it a "marketing gimmick" and asked him to first unite the CBI and the RBI.
The Prime Minister is slated to unveil 182-metre tallest statue in the world, Statue of Unity' (SoU), at Kevadia in Narmada district on the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel on Wednesday.
When the internal fighting among the top brass of leading institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has emerged into the public, the Prime Minister should deal with this crisis first and then speak of unity, Vaghela said.
"Which unity are you talking about?" the former BJP leader asked while talking to reporters here. "First unite the CBI, the RBI. Unite for saving the downfall of the Indian rupee, unite for bringing down fuel prices," he said.
"When you are talking about Sardar, release the jailed Patidar youth," Vaghela asserted, referring to Alpesh Kathiriya, a close associate of firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who is in jail on sedition charges. Patel also faces similar charges.
The former Gujarat Chief Minister said: "There can be no comparison between the simplicity and austerity of the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel, and the construction and the motive behind the State of Unity. The project is of around Rs 3,000 crore, a sheer wastage and unproductive expense of public money when Gujarat is laden with a public debt of Rs 2,50,000 crore."
Vaghela, who was credited with building the BJP in Gujarat with Narendra Modi in tow in the late 80s and early 90s, asked: "Why the sudden love for Sardar whose very name you did not like once?"
Vaghela recalled the time when he was the Chief Minister and during an event on the naming of the Ahmedabad airport as the Sardar Patel International Airport, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members dressed in black and waving black flags had vehemently opposed the naming in front of then, Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
"One shouldn't have the impression that these people love Sardar... This is just using his name to market themselves. They make a hue and cry of injustice meted out to the Iron Man. When I met Maniben, Sardar Patel's daughter, she said there was never any injustice to Sardar. He didn't even have the aspirations to be the PM. Which injustice are you talking about?" asked Vaghela.
"I challenge these people to show me one instance of injustice to the great man," he said.
Vaghela said: "I see the unveiling of the Statue of Unity as a desperate attempt by the BJP to gain political mileage and nothing else. They are losing public support. Not a single work was done by this government in four-and-half years for the common man."
"Tribals are unhappy, farmers are committing suicides... The government should listen to them," he added.
"The UPA government allotted around Rs 15 to 17 crore for the Sardar Patel memorial near Ahmedabad airport. Has Modi even visited the place once? After UPA, what have you done for it if you love Sardar so much?" Vaghela asked.