| Chief minister Nitish Kumar, Governor DY Patil and other dignitaries in front of the new statue after offering floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and (above) Kumar Indra Dev pays obeisance at the older statue of Bapu at Gandhi Maidan on Wednesday. Pictures by Deepak Kumar
Bapuji’s birth anniversary celebrations on Wednesday portrayed two contrasting images at the sites of Mahatma Gandhi’s two statues at Gandhi Maidan.
The 22ft statue — installed by former chief minister Lalu Prasad on October 2, 1990 and the venue of the main state function to mark Gandhi Jayanti till last year — stood forlorn. In sharp contrast, the 79ft statue set up by the Nitish government on February 15 this year on the northwest side of the Maidan was the cynosure of all eyes.
Governor D.Y. Patil, chief minister Nitish Kumar, his cabinet colleagues and officials were among the 60 top VIPs converging to pay tributes to Bapuji at what is claimed to be the world’s tallest statue. Bapu’s favourite song Raghupati Raghav Rajaram played in the background, as they garlanded it one by one.
Barely 200m southeast, only the district officials carried out the ritual of garlanding the old statue. Neither any minister nor top bureaucrat even preferred to walk up to the old statue — the venue of the main state function for the past 22 years.
Furious over the alleged negligence meted out to the Gandhi statue installed by Lalu, RJD legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui said: “Even the statues of the Father of Nation have been subjected to petty politics. The chief minister should have shown the basic decency of garlanding both the statues.”
He said: “The chief minister’s stature would not have gone down had he walked up to the old statue as well, barely a few metres away from the new one, and garland it.”
Siddiqui pointed out that there was hardly a need to install a new statue right near the old one. “The government should shift the old statue somewhere else so that it does not suffer insult near the one chosen for the state function,” he added.
The building construction department, which is mulling to relocate the old Gandhi statue, has not taken any final decision yet. Preferring anonymity, a senior official of the department said: “At present, the department has not taken any decision and there are chances that the old one might be left wherever it is because its relocation might fuel political controversy.”
Asked about the different treatments meted out to the two statues at the Gandhi Maidan, Patna district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar said: “Equal treatment had been given to both the statues. The district administration spruced up and garlanded the old one as well. But it was for the state cabinet to decide on which statue would be chosen for the state event. The cabinet selected the new one.”
Defending the new practice, cabinet secretary Brajesh Mehrotra told The Telegraph: “We are not neglecting the old statue at all. What matters to us the most is the Father of Nation and not statues. The new statue looks grand, giving a new identity to the Gandhi Maidan. That is why we decided to accord state event to the new one.”
Kumar Indra Dev, a resident of the SP Verma Road area and a follower of Gandhi, walked up to the old statue, plucked a flower blooming near its pedestal and offered tributes to Bapuji.
“I was saddened to see that the district administration had not even arranged flowers to let the people garland it. I had no option but to pluck a flower from a nearby plant and garland it,” Dev said, expressing shock over the neglect of the old statue.
Secretary of Gandhi Sangrahalaya Razi Ahmad, a Gandhian, said people were free to pay tributes to Bapu wherever they want. “The people can go to pay tribute to the Mahatma wherever they have faith,” he said.
Should the old statue of Bapuji be removed from Gandhi Maidan? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org