Constructing statues seems to be the contemporary way of displaying power. With the Modi led government inaugurating the 182-meter long Statue of Unity, the world’s largest statue, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has declared a statue of Ram to be built in Ayodhya. This, he said, will be larger than the Statue of Unity. It is apparent that statues possess a deeper significance in the current climate than just national pride.
Controversy regarding the Statue Of Unity
The Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world, is made in the image of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, and is, therefore, a celebration of our history. However, an investment of such magnitude is of the gravest concern as India is still a developing country possessing the quintessential characteristics of one. Also, there appears to be no short-term or direct benefit from the statue. It can be argued that the revenue from potential visitors is a positive touch to the project although the extent to its feasibility is still up for debate. The government has estimated an average of 10,000 visitors a day and taking into consideration the maintenance costs, experts believe that it would take upwards of 30 years to break-even which does not appear very promising.
The Political Pedantry
2019 is almost upon us and with it, The Elections. If we put aside the backdrop of a heritage site for the moment, there is a chance that one might be able to glimpse a bait for votes.
For a country whose economy has taken an alarming hit due to rising fuel prices and depreciation of the Rupee, the government needs a ‘win’ and the big unveiling may just be able to provide that. The country is still recovering from the scourge of demonetization and this coupled with rising unemployment levels has significantly disillusioned the public. Diverting attention to relatively trivial matters like renaming cities to appease the nationalists whilst keeping certain societal groups happy, serves the dual purpose of channeling attention from the failed policies of the ruling party whilst maintaining the loyalty of their core supporters.
Statues have become a prominent tool for this kind of powerplay and the recent remarks by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, depicts this phenomenon aptly. He has announced the construction of a Ram statue bigger than that of the Statue of Unity in Ayodhya. The intention behind such an undertaking is questionable, to say the least, and let us hope the collateral is not social and economic progress.
There is no doubt to the fact that the Statue of Unity is a tremendous achievement for the country and since maintaining appearances is a major factor for international approval, this achievement extends further than the statue’s aesthetic appeal. Let us hope that the rich history of our country is expressed through these statues and that they are not used as weapons to consolidate power or to trump minorities.
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