Family members laud 'Statue of Unity'; say younger generation will draw inspiration
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's family members on Wednesday hailed the 'Statue of Unity' as a "befitting tribute" to the 'Iron Man of India', saying it would help the younger generation know about his life and it should have been done much earlier by the previous governments.
"Congress didn't do anything like this for Sardar Patel. The statue is a befitting tribute to his contribution to the nation," said Dhirubhai Patel, grandson of Sardar's elder brother Somabhai Patel.
Dhirubhai, 91, was a special invitee to the ceremony where Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled Sardar Patel's 182-metre statue, the world's tallest, in Narmada district this morning on the occasion of the leader's 143rd birth anniversary.
Besides Dhirubhai, who lives in Vadodara with his family, the event was attended by 35 other members of Vallabhbhai Patel's extended family.
Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister of Independent India, is credited with merging 550 princely states into the Union of India. He had used force to annex princely states of Junagadh ruled by Nawab and Hyderabad ruled by Nizam, both of whom had wished not to merge their respective states with Union of India.
80-year-old Bhupendra Patel, another senior member of the family, said the statue would remind the younger generation about contributions made by Sardar.
"They will draw inspiration from Sardar Patel," said Bhupendra, who lives in Vallabh Vidyanagar in Anand district.
He refused to comment when asked whether the previous governments did little for Sardar as being claimed by leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Dhirubhai's son-in-law Shailesh Patel, a Mumbai-based businessman, was more forthcoming.
"This (statue) was long overdue. They should have done it much earlier. The statue will spread the message of the strength of unity and of the role played by Sardar to unite the nation," he said.
Sardar Patel Memorial Trust's founder-secretary Hasmukh Patel, who was also among the special invitees at the event, said it was a "good decision" to build the Sardar statue.
"The younger generation needs to learn from Sardar's life and this statue will be a unique way to do so," he said, adding that the prime minister has "recaptured Sardar's memory in a unique way".
(With inputs from agencies.)