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Struggle for iron for Iron Man

- Nitish cold shoulder to Gujarat officials’ meet request

Patna, Dec. 2: The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has apparently pitted his government in Gujarat to battle it out with its Bihar counterpart on the issue of building Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue.

“The Gujarat government has sought the co-operation of the Bihar government in building the world’s tallest statue of Patel,” Gujarat’s development commissioner A.K. Rakesh said at a news meet here today.

He added: “The Gujarat officials have sought time from the chief minister’s office and the Raj Bhavan to meet Nitish Kumar and Governor D.Y. Patil on the issue.”

Rakesh said his office had sent a letter to the Bihar chief minister’s office and the Raj Bhavan on November 27, seeking time with the CM and governor. “So far, we have not received any official reply from them,” he said.

Sources in the chief minister’s office revealed that Nitish would not “oblige” the Gujarat officials on the issue, which he (Nitish) thought as “a ploy to push the political agenda of his arch-rival, Narendra Modi”.

Nitish said today without naming his Gujarat counterpart that “kuch log (some people — read Narendra Modi) were trying to use Sardar Patel’s name to fulfil their political ambitions”.

Gujarat minister Dilip Kumar Thakore, who had accompanied the development commissioner at the news meet, asserted: “The construction of Sardar Saheb’s statue is not a political issue because he was an icon for the entire country.”

Thakore said the campaign for collecting iron from more than six lakh villages across the country for the construction of “the statue of unity” in memory of the Iron Man of India would begin on December 15.

There are eight regions for collection of iron. Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bengal and Sikkim have been included in the eastern region. Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, a former Union minister and Madhubani BJP MP has been made the convener of the eastern region.

Sources in the BJP revealed that in the name of collecting iron, the party aimed at entering six lakh villages to establish its contact with villagers and build its mass base ahead of the 2014 elections.

Apart from collecting iron, the party activists have been asked to collect mud from each village and during the iron-mud collection drive, they will ask the villagers to fill Surajya petition. While mud will be used in filling up the podium, the Surajya petition will seek people’s response about the type of government they want and what is their imagination of good governance.

A senior officer claimed that the handwritten Surajya petition will be preserved at the museum, which is coming up at Kevadia in Bharuch, the project site.

Also, a team of 15 senior IAS and IPS officers from Gujarat, who are originally from Bihar, are camping in the state as part of people mobilisation for the collection of iron and mud. They will also visit their home districts to garner support for collection of mud and iron.