Millions join Modi’s ‘run for unity’

Millions join Modi’s ‘run for unity’

With eye on 2014 polls, BJP holds ‘marathons’ to get support for Sardar Patel’s statue

By Mahesh Trivedi

Published: Tue 17 Dec 2013, 12:21 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:22 PM

Unfazed by criticism, Narendra Modi went ahead with ‘run-for-unity’ marathons at some 1,000 locations across the country to commemorate Gujarat-born Iron Man of India and the first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 63rd death anniversary on Sunday.

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state claimed that four million people, mainly in Gujarat, participated in the marathons with the Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate flagging off the 1.5 kilometre run in Vadodara and BJP patriarch L K Advani, an MP from Gujarat, inaugurating a similar event in Ahmedabad.

Though Modi in his speech said that the event was non-political and aimed only at uniting Indians, it is seen as a massive exercise for galvanising support for his pet project, the world’s tallest statue of the Sardar ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls. Modi on Friday had also launched a video film on the ‘Statue of Unity’ project being built on an island in the Narmada river near the gigantic Sardar Sarovar dam project. The video has been made for the large screen through the 3D mapping technology for screening at different places across India.

Sunday also witnessed the start of BJP workers’ nationwide iron collection drive for the 182-metre statue which will surpass the record of China’s 153-metre Spring Temple Buddha, and will be almost double the height of New York city’s famed ‘Statue of Liberty’ and about five times the height of the statue of ‘Christ The Redeemer’ in Rio de Janeiro.

Indeed, it will also be 10 metres taller than the earth’s highest, 172-metre statue of Crazy Horse Memorial being carved out in Mount Rushmore, South Dakota in north-central US.

Among other grandiose plans of Modi, the BJP workers, who fanned out to different regions on Sunday, will reach out to 187,000 ‘sarpanchs’ (village chiefs) in two months to collect iron and soil for the imposing acrolith to be ready in 2015. Gujarat BJP spokesman Harshad Patel told Khaleej Times that each ‘sarpanch’ would be given a letter signed by Modi who is also writing to 250,000 school principals to join the event.

He claimed that BJP workers would reach out to 500 million Indians across 500,000 villages in 450 out of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The marathons have been organised by a youth organization, Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG), whose members include alumni of IIMs, IITs and those who have left working with multinational firms like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and McKinsey.

In Nadiad, Dinsha Patel, local Congress MP and the only federal cabinet minister in Congress-led UPA government, raised many eyebrows when he welcomed the participants of the marathon in which 70,000 people took part even as 40-odd Congress workers were held in Vadodara where Modi kicked off the event.

More news from WORLD