Row over installation of Arjun Singh's statue in Bhopal

Congress veteran late Arjun Singh. (Photo: File)

A controversy has erupted over the installation of a life-sized statue of Congress veteran late Arjun Singh at a busy trisection in Bhopal where the bust of freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad had existed earlier.

Interestingly, it is the BJP-ruled Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) which installed the statue of Singh, a former chief minister and Gandhi family loyalist who died in 2011.

However, BMC mayor distanced himself from setting up of Singh's statue, which is yet to be unveiled.

BMC officials claimed Azad's bust was removed about three years from the spot on Link Road No. 1 in New Market locality and was relocated at a spot along a nearby road.

The bust was relocated from its pedestal with twin objectives to "improve traffic condition" at the busy trisection and for widening a road.

Taking strong objection, BJP national vice president and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Sunday demanded re-installation of Azad's bust at its original location.

"Madhya Pradesh is ashamed because of the treatment meted out to the bust of great revolutionary Azad. Those responsible for this should be punished. We demand the statue of the great son of mother India (Azad) be re-installed with due respect. Otherwise, the country will never be able to forgive itself," Chouhan said.

However, Bhopal Mayor Alok Sharma of BJP claimed officers of the civic body appointed by the Congress-led state government never consulted him about the installation of Singh's statue.

"The place for installing Arjun Singh's statue was decided by Congress leaders and BMC officers. They never consulted me," Sharma told PTI.

On the other hand, BMC Commissioner B Vijay Datta said the mayor was indeed kept in the loop on the issue.

"We discussed the matter with the mayor who consented," Datta told PTI.

He said Azad's bust was relocated for the widening of the road and for improving traffic condition.

"Now, there is no such problem at this trisection," he added.

Congress leader and corporator Amit Sharma said due legal process was followed by the civic body in installing Singh's statue.

"We decided to install Arjun Singh's statue after securing due permissions. There was no bust at this trisection at present, according to BMC records," Sharma claimed.

Singh's statue was supposed to be unveiled at the trisection on November 11, but the event was postponed in view of prohibitory orders in place in Bhopal following the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya.

Singh had served as the 12th Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in the 1980s. He later became Union Minister of Human Resource Development in the then Manmohan Singh cabinet from 2004 to 2009.

Singh was CM when the deadly gas leak from the Union Carbide factory occurred in December 1984. It is alleged that Singh fled to his Kerwa Dam Palace outside Bhopal to save himself on a fateful night between December 2 and 3, 1984.

Serious questions were raised about his alleged role in the release of Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson. The Bhopal disaster took place in a plant allegedly belonging to Union Carbide's (UCC) Indian subsidiary, Union Carbide India Limited. 

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