India unveils world's tallest statue amid criticism

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The 182-meters (597 feet) bronze statue of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, a key independence leader and the country's first home minister after British colonialists left in 1947, was inaugurated Wednesday by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

It is nearly 29 metres taller than China's Spring Temple Buddha that stands at 153 metres, and nearly twice as high as the 93-metre Statue of Liberty in NY.

It was erected in Kevadiya, a village in Gujarat state.

"This statue is an answer to all those who question India's power and might", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

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With military aircraft scattering flower petals on the statue from the skies, Mr Modi paid tribute to Patel and the occasion, in what was effectively the unofficial launch of his campaign for re-election next year.

"Like India's Taj Mahal or the Egyptian pyramids, which could also be argued as extravagant, Patel's statue will also have a long-term value". Media reports pointed out that locals tribal leaders have announced a boycott of Wednesday's event, saying, it is a mass destruction of the natural resources.

The monument, on which thousands of people have worked on since its foundation stone was set in October 2013, has beaten China's "Spring Temple Buddha" to be the world's tallest statue.

The Statue of Unity will be able to withstand wind speeds of up to 180 km and also an quake of up to 6.5 in richter scale.

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"We are attending the Run for Unity to mark that (dedication of Patel statue)".

Though little known outside of India, Patel - the nation's first deputy prime minister - is a favorite of Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to Elizabeth Chatterjee, a professor of political science at Queen Mary University of London. Modi also reiterated Sardar's vision that every Indian will have to forget about one's caste and class and identify oneself as Indian.

"Criticism will be around for another four to five years because of the bureaucratic mindset to look down upon any project of such a grand scale", said Madhav Nalapat, honorary director and Unesco peace chair at Manipal University.

But it won't remain the world's tallest statue for long. Construction is underway for an even bigger statue near the Indian city Mumbai, which will depict the Marathan warrior King Shivaji on horseback in the Arabian Sea. The current design would make it 212 meters high.

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