€236m 'unity' statue divides opinion
The man expected to become India's next prime minister has been accused of wasting more than €236m on what will be the world's tallest statue.
The Statue of Unity to honour Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first deputy prime minister, will stand at 597ft when completed in 42 months, almost 100ft taller than China's Spring Temple Buddha, the world's current tallest statue, standing at 502ft. The Spire in Dublin's O'Connell Street is 397ft.
It will be almost twice as high as the Statue of Liberty in New York, which is 305ft. Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London, stands at 170ft.
The memorial will be set on a river island close to Narmada Dam and will be connected to an amusement park by a bridge.
Its construction is set to boost tourism numbers to the state of Gujarat, but it has also been seen as a political manoeuvre by Narendra Modi, its controversial chief minister, to co-opt one of the heroes of India's independence struggle as a symbol for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Yesterday – the 138th anniversary of Patel's birth – Mr Modi said: "The world will be forced to look at India when this statue stands tall."
Earlier this week, Mr Modi, who will lead the BJP's general election campaign next year, said Patel would have been a better first prime minister of independent India than Nehru.
The cost of the statue and the political purpose behind it brought strong criticism from leading commentators.
Mohan Gurumurthy, of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, said Patel would have objected to millions being spent on the project. (© Daily Telegraph, London)