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Pedestal awaits statue that's gathering dust

Petlee Peter

— Photo: MEERA MARIAM YESUDASAN

The pedestal built on the Anna Salai-Binny Road junction in in Chennai in 1997

CHENNAI: A pedestal on Anna Salai-Binny Road junction constructed 14 years ago still awaits a statue. The statue, made by a well-known sculptor, is ready but lying at his studio here for nearly a decade.

The pedestal on a traffic island is meant for the installation of the statue of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A. Esaiah, a Congress advocate, had obtained permission to instal the statue in 1993 after he went to court against the then government's denial of permission.

“Interestingly, he obtained the permission on behalf of the All India Amitabh Bachchan Fans' Association, of which he was the State head,” recalled Congress leader and writer A. Gopanna.

The key man behind the advocate's efforts was Congress leader G.K. Moopanar, who eagerly wanted the statue installed and unveiled by Sonia Gandhi, who had then entered politics, Mr. Gopanna added.

In 1996, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) came to power, and its principal ally was the Tamil Maanila Congress-Moopanar (TMC-M). The then Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, issued a fresh Government Order to build the pedestal and instal the statue.

According to former Congress MLA S.R. Balasubramoniyam, a grand stone-laying ceremony, presided over by Moopanar, was held in 1997. A city-based sculptor was commissioned to sculpt the statue of Indira Gandhi.

“The following year, I accompanied Moopanar, Esaiah and other Congress leaders to inspect the statue at the sculptor's studio. Moopanar was highly disappointed with the facial features and wanted the job redone,” Mr. Balasubramoniyam reminisced.

In the same year, Mr. Moopanar happened to visit the studio of another sculptor in Chennai, who had a model of Indira Gandhi on display. “He got so inspired by the model that he cancelled the existing order and placed a fresh one with the sculptor,” added Mr. Balasubramoniyam.

Moopanar's efforts to speed up the unveiling of the statue hit a roadblock because of the sudden demise of Esaiah in 2000. However, in the beginning of 2001, Moopanar, despite being unwell, visited the studio with a team of senior TMC members and gave the final approval for the statue.

Unfortunately, his health condition deteriorated the very next day and he was hospitalised.

He passed away on August 30, 2001. With both the lawyer, who first got the permission, and the leader, who pursued the matter, now no more, there is scepticism in political circles over whether the statue would ever be installed.

Meanwhile, the pedestal presents a picture of neglect as it is used by all and sundry to paste posters and notices.

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