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In unveiling statue, Modi wants to change narrative dominating India

NEW DELHI: With the inauguration of the tallest statue in the world — the Statue of Unity — in the Indian village of Kevadia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is indicating the political narrative that he wishes to dominate the upcoming state and general elections.

The 182-meter-high statue of the late Sardar Vallabhai Patel, India’s first interior minister and an icon of the country’s freedom struggle, was built at a cost of $450 million.
Patel, who was a member of the Congress Party, is projected by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a nationalist who favored making India a Hindu nation, in contrast to Jawaharlal Nehru, the English-educated first prime minister who is credited with laying the foundation of a modern, secular democracy. “This statue is a source of unity,” Modi said after inaugurating it.
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based political analyst and writer, told Arab News: “Undeniably, the entire project has been timed to promote Modi’s political fortunes.” Mukhopadhyay said: “Patel is eulogized by Modi and as part of Hindu nationalists’ narrative, but the fact is that Patel was furiously against Hindu nationalism.”
BJP spokesman Sudesh Verma told Arab News: “Through the Statue of Unity, we want to alter the narrative that has dominated India so far.”
He said: “We need to tell the true legacy of Patel to the world, which got overshadowed by Nehru’s worldview and his promotion of a secular India. This is an ideological slap to those who promote diversity at the cost of India’s unity.”
Mukhopadhyay said: “This shift in the BJP’s emphasis from development to Hindu nationalism is borne out of a realization that Modi’s popularity is waning, and that the government’s poor performance in the last four and a half years can’t ensure a victory in the 2019 elections.”
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