Creating Monuments or Political Mileage?

Published : Dec 18, 2018 12:16 pm | By: M D Sridharan

Ever since, the “Statue of Unity”, garnered all the glare and attention across the globe, it has turned out to be a season for statues in the country. Several state governments are keen on creating such huge monuments in their states; As a result the cou

Ever since, Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully completed his dream project: “Statue of Unity”, it has turned out to be a season for statues. With one government after the other vying for erecting huge statues be it for God as well as for statesman, the country has been witnessing huge projects of erecting a spate of statues across the cities.

Let’s take a look at some of the mega statue projects that has drawn the attention of the nation across religions and political sphere for its massive size and huge cost involved. In the process the governments both central and the state have turned both the statesmen and the God in to a commodity, of course for their political mileage.

As the country is witnessing the race in creating monuments by the politicians, one wonders whether they are actually engaged in reaching monumental heights through such projects.

Statue of Unity

“The Statue of Unity” is so towering that has become the world’s tallest statue at 182 meters.  It is almost double the size of Statue of liberty in the US, and four times the size of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the “Statue of Unity” in honour of India’s “Iron Man”  Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Conceptualised as Sardar Patel walking on the Narmada river towards the Sardar Sarovar dam, Patel’s statue has been built by Larsen & Toubro Ltd at a cost of Rs 2,989 crore and was completed in a record time of 33 months.

The giant memorial to Sardar Patel statue is plated with 1,700 tonnes of bronze and 1,850 tonnes of bronze cladding made up of 565 macro and 6,000 micro panels. The core of the statue is made up of 210,000 cubic metres of cement concrete, 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel and 6,500 tonnes of structural steel.

The design of the statue took a lot of brainstorming among experts due to various challenges related to its location, height and pose. The bronze statue now is nothing less than an engineering marvel.  Standing majestically against the picturesque backdrop of Vindhyachal and Satpura mountain ranges and the Narmada river, two high-speed elevators are fitted inside the legs of the statue leading to the Visitors' gallery near the chest of the statue, giving a breathtaking view of the beautiful Narmada Valley.

The grand monument was conceptualised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister and he had laid the foundation stone for it in 2013. By successfully building the mammoth statue for Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Modi simply not only accomplished his dream but also in one stroke completed the appropriation of an icon who originally belonged to the Congress but has been forgotten by that party. Despite strong criticism by the opposition which called the entire exercise of inauguration a Political benefit, Modi shot back that  by asking, “Is it a crime to remember out great leaders?".

He also went on to proclaim that  BJP has plans to  building memorials of great leaders like Govind Guru, Netaji Bose, Babasaheb Ambedkar  and declared that BJP  is only making an attempt to revisit history through such monuments and also  correct a “historical wrong” perpetuated by a dynastic Congress that could not look beyond one family.

Indeed it was a clever move by both Modi and BJP to create an indelible imprint for Sardar Patel that would stand testimony to the Iron Man’s   contribution to nation-building and also the fact that the same was conveniently undermined by Congress for decades.  Despite criticism from the opposition, truly the “Statue of Unity” has revitalised “Sardar” as an unparalleled icon of India’s freedom struggle,  which historically, the Congress has reserved the space only  Jawaharlal Nehru and his family. Undoubtedly the credit goes to Modi and BJP for successfully breaking the monopoly and gives Patel his due.

Chhatrapati Shivaji’s memorial statue

Much before Prime Minister Modi realised his dream project of  “Statue of Liberty” ,  he laid the foundation stone for  “Shivaji Smarak”-  the  Chhatrapati Shivaji’s memorial statue  in December 2016. The statue will be located facing Mumbai, 1.5 km away on a manmade island of rocks; it will be 210 meters  in height, including its base.

The project area is planned to be spread over 130,000 square meters and the statue will be surrounded by a theatre, food court, and library. It is expected to be completed in 2021. Initially, the total cost of the project is estimated to be about Rs. 3600 crore by the Maharashtra government. This proposed statue will have restaurants, a library, and a boat service to pick up and drop the tourists which will create direct employment.

The state government had originally proposed a statue standing 121.2 metres tall, including the sculpture of the king on his horse together measuring 83.2 metres, and a 38-metre sword. The original design was expected to be the tallest statue in the world with a height of 210 metres to compete with a Buddha statue in China. However, as a part of the cost reduction measures, the height of the sculpture of the warrior king on his steed has been reduced to 75.7 metres and the length of the sword raised to 45.5 metres, maintaining the statue height of 121.2 metres.

Due to the altercation in warrior king’s height, there have been reductions in the use of bronze, tertiary steel elements and other materials. As a result the initial project cost of Rs 3600 crore is also likely to come down.

Mother Cauvery Statue

At a time when Congress is on an offensive against Sardar Patel's 'Statue of Unity' and accusing the BJP for the huge cost involved, its coalition partner in Karnataka, Janata Dal (United) government has announced to install a 325 feet tall statue for “Mother Cauvery” near the Krishnarajasagara Dam on Cauvery River in Mandya district. The project, estimated to cost around Rs. 1,200 crore, will require about 400 acres of land and is being taken up by the water resources and tourism ministries in a bid to increase tourism and expected to be ready after two years.

The Cauvery river, which originates in the foothills of the Western Ghats in Karnataka’s Kodagu, is the third largest after the Godavari and Krishna in south India. The river is also revered as “Mother Cauvery” is worshipped in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also hailed as  ‘Dakshina Ganga’ ( the Ganges of the south). Cauvery has been the economic backbone of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and remained as the main source of water for the farmers of the delta regions of Tamil Nadu.

The statue is a tribute to ‘Mother Cauvery’ and is not exactly a statue, claims the Karnataka government. The overall structure is likely to be a tower. The land already belongs to the government and the state government will be inviting investors to invest in it. The complex will include the statue, a museum, and two glass houses measuring around 360 feet that will give a bird’s eye view of the reservoir, a bandstand, an indoor stadium and replicas of historical monuments. The statue will be designed in such a way that water will pour from Goddess Cauvery and there will be a place for people to watch from a tower.

The state government has planned to covert the spot in to a tourist destination. Karnataka Irrigation Minister DK Shivakumar said, "We are just coming up with an amusement park for tourism, like Disneyland. Mysore is a destination for tourism. There is the famous Brindavan Garden and we want to enrich it. We want the world to look at it.

Though the government maintains that it is not investing any money for the statue or involving any government funds, the project will be executed on the basis of public-private participation and has extended an invitation to potential investors to invest in the mega project. 

Lord Ram statue

The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has decided to erect a 151 metres tall Lord Ram statue on the banks of river Saryu that  would also compete with statues in the league of tallest  statues such as ‘Statue of Unity’ and ‘Spring Temple Buddha’ statue in China, which measures 153 metres. While the height of the Ram statue would be 151 metres, its overhead umbrella would be 20 metres while the pedestal would be 50 metres totaling 221 meteres and will be made of bronze,

The grand statue of Lord Ram on the banks of the Saryu river in Ayodhya will be a part of the state government’s its plan to showcase “Navya  Ayodhya”.  Besides, Lord Ram statue, a Ram Katha gallery on the banks of the river, a multi-purpose auditorium in the Digambar Akhara premises and various public utility services will part of the mega project called “Integrated development of Ayodhya”.

The proposed “Modern Museum” inside the base will showcase the history of Ayodhya and the entire “Ikshvaku Vansh” right from King Manu to the present status of “Ram Janmabhoomi”. The proposed museum will also house detailed description of all the “Avatars” of Lord Vishnu and will also have arrangements for depiction on the topic “Bharat ke samasta Sanatan Dharma” using state of art techniques.

The state government had sent a detailed project report of Rs 195.89 crore to the Tourism Ministry at the Centre and the Ministry has so far provided Rs 133.70 crore to the state.  Taking a cue from  the ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat also witnessed liberal doses of Corporate Social Responsibility  funds from public sector enterprises,  the Uttar Pradesh government has solicited funds from private and public sector companies for the proposed Lord Ram statue project.

The foundation stone and the ‘ground breaking’ ceremony were conducted for the grand statue of Lord Ram during ‘Deepotsav’ on November 6 in the presence of South Korean first lady Kim Jung-Sook by Yogi Adityanath.

Andhra Pradesh Assembly Structure

Ever since, the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in to split, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on Jun 2, 2014, the demand for a separate capital for Andhra Pradesh loomed large, As a result, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu decided to build a new capital called Amaravathi. The core of Amaravati will be built on 33,000 acres of land between Vijayawada and Thullur along the banks of the Krishna river. An expert committee appointed for the new capital of Andhra Pradesh has suggested an estimated Rs 27,000 crore as the cost for building 'Amaravati',

It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had laid the foundation stone for Andhra Pradesh's new capital city Amaravati in 2015. Then the Telugu Desam Party chief was a trusted ally of BJP. Now, Chandrababu Naidu has turned a bitter enemy of Modi and is keen on forming a formidable opposition to take on Modi in 2019 general elections.

The wok on creating a new capital city is going on full swing for the last of years. Chandrababu Naidu has envisioned Amaravathi to be a city of world-class standards  and the new capital city is getting ready brick by brick with several  innovative features such navigation canals around the city and connecting an island in the river Krishna and many iconic buildings to house the state government offices.

To top it all, Naidu has planned to construct a tallest structure in the country in Amaravathi. The proposed design, by UK based architects Norma Fosters and finalised by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu , will make the Andhra Pradesh Assembly building taller than the Statue of Unity by 68 meters. The design of the three-floor assembly building includes a 250-meter tower, which will make it taller than the 182-metre Statue of Unity in Gujarat.

The three-floor Assembly building will have a 250-meter tower making it taller than the 182-metre Statue of Unity in Gujarat. The proposed structure will be shaped like an upside-down lily flower. Amaravati master plan project includes the design of two key buildings: t he legislature assembly and the high court complex, along with several secretariat buildings, where the offices of state administration are located.

The lavish Assembly design includes a viewing tower and a museum, with the complex spread over 17 lakh square feet. Besides, the government has also planned to install a statue of ‘Telugu Talli’ (Mother Telugu) in the Assembly hall with the rays from rising sun falling on it.

Political Mileage

Every government in power is bent on promoting its ideologies and most of the leaders are driven by the desire to leave their imprint. In such a scenario, the politicians have turned their iconic leaders in to a saleable commodity.  Some leaders have not even sparred Gods. They are vying with each other to build winnable brand equity.

Of course, all these mega projects have earned substantial criticism as a mere waste and the amount could have been successfully used for several welfare schemes across the country. But, it looks like that the governments are now focused on business as well.  They argue that the investments made on such mega projects will fetch revenues in future from tourism,

It is common sense that every business needs investment and the fact remains that tourism is also a business and each project has the potential to be an X-factor to attract more tourism, just like any monuments like Taj Mahal.

In the era of internet and social media, already the governments are spending considerable resources in communicating the successes of their programmes, initiatives and achievements. Though, the respective state governments are claiming that they are not simply wasting exchequer’s money on building huge statues, but creating monuments that will stand the test of time, the fact remains that  behind creating such monuments indeed lies a big brand building exercise as well as getting the political mileage.,


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