Stop ‘belittling’ great personalities, says PM Modi

Vastavam web: In a veiled attack on the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday said the opposition party can abuse him, but should stop “belittling” icons like Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Babasaheb Ambedkar. The prime minister also said cleanliness was an important aspect of Mahatma Gandhi’s life and asserted that sanitation coverage increased manifold under his four-year-old government.

Without mentioning the Congress, Modi said the opposition party is tied to a single family. Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday claimed that Sardar Patel’s mega statue in Gujarat was being built by China, evoking stinging reactions from the BJP and the Gujarat government. Justifying building of memorials for various noted personalities, Modi said it is a sign of devotion towards those who have fought for the freedom of the country.

He said the country’s first deputy prime minister was a global figure who cannot be confined to a caste or a state. The prime minister was addressing a gathering in Rajkot from where he inaugurated through remote control the Mahatma Gandhi Museum at the Alfred High School in the city where the father of the nation had studied. Modi also dedicated over 600 houses built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY) to the people and interacted with some women beneficiaries through video conferencing.

In his speech, he appealed to the opposition not to belittle great personalities of the country. “But, I don’t know why, and for whose benefit, a great personality like Mahatma Gandhi was reduced to just paying tributes on October 2 (his birth anniversary) and January 30 (his death anniversary)?” Modi asked.

He said the museum is of immense importance not only for the people of Rajkot but also for the entire world. The museum has been set up at the Alfred High School, which was an important part of the formative years of Mahatma Gandhi. It will help spread awareness about Gandhian culture, values and philosophy, he said. “Shyamji Krishna Varma, whose birth anniversary is on October 4, had fought for the country’s independence. If we made his statue… It was our aim that those who fought for country’s freedom should become a source of inspiration for the coming generations,” he said.

“When I constructed the ‘Panchteerth’ by remembering Babasaheb Ambedkar, I had faith that the coming generation gets inspired by a man who rose and achieved such height after coming out of poverty,” the prime minister said. Panchteerth consists of five places that are closely associated with the Dalit icon and are being developed by the government. “As part of this exercise, we are constructing Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue (in Gujarat’s Narmada district. Sardar Saheb’s stature is so high that it cannot be compared, but symbolically we have decided to keep the height of the statue (at 182 meters) which is twice the height of the world’s tallest statue. On October 31, I will come to inaugurate it,” he said.

Referring to the United Nations’ ‘Champions of the Earth’ award given to him, Modi said the deserving candidates for this honour are Mahatma Gandhi and 125 crore Indians. Modi has been awarded the `Champions of the Earth’ Award, the UN’s highest environmental honour, along with five other individuals and organisations for their leadership in promotion of solar energy. As a gift to Mahatma Gandhi and his dream to see India a clean country, Modi urged the people of Rajkot to make the city cleanest in India.

He said the sanitation coverage has increased in the last four years under his government. “Sanitation coverage in the country before 2014 was mere 35 per cent. Though many PMs and governments came, it remained just 35 per cent. “Cleanliness was an important aspect of Gandhi’s life and he used to say, if he had to choose between cleanliness and freedom, he would choose cleanliness first, such was his commitment towards cleanliness,” he said. Every Indian should have it in their hearts that a barrister (Gandhiji) gave up everything for the country and freed it from foreign rule, Modi said.