This 31st October, on late Sardar Vallabbhai Patel's birth anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 182 ft tall statue of the Congress leader. The Gujarat Government describes it as world's tallest statue. Vijay Rupani, the Chief Minister of Gujarat says it will stand for the country's unity and integrity.
However, a specific remark by Rupani adds a new dimension to the event. He said it was an effort to uphold Patel's work for the country at a situation where several forces are working to break the unity. This can be well accounted as a reference to the recent arrest of activists allegedly involved with left extremists.
Whether the Congress sidelined Patel and his legacy has been a long due debate now. That the Congress curbed Patel's influence to many extents and placed Jawaharlal Nehru as the undisputable leader, is also apparently emphasised by the BJP. BJP, in all its capacity, is trying to claim how Patel's glory was reined by his own party.
Early this year, senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz claimed Patel was ready to trade Kashmir with Pakistan, although the remark rather came on an appreciable note.
"Sardar Patel was a pragmatist and had offered Kashmir to Liaquat Ali Khan (then Pak PM). He told him 'don't talk of Hyderabad, talk Kashmir; take Kashmir but don't talk of Hyderabad' as Khan was preparing for war and Patel wasn't," he said.
While the BJP somehow correctly points out Congress' negligence towards the congressman, it misses another point. Patel's birth anniversary incidentally falls on the same date when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Unsurprisingly, the mourning is stronger than the celebration.
"From 1985 onwards, the Congress, when in power in New Delhi, vigorously commemorated 31st October for being the day that Indira Gandhi died, while forgetting to alert the public that this was also the day that Patel was born. Since the Nehru-Gandhis would not praise Patel, the BJP chose to do so instead," historian Ramchandra Guha wrote in a Hindustan Times column.
That a dedicated party leader is now being celebrated by their political opponent, is rather unfortunate for Congress. But here's the broader question. How is it going to benefit BJP, especially now that their own tolerance towards different faiths has been questioned so many times?
Time will answer.