Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 182-metre high statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, BSP chief Mayawati sought an apology from the BJP for its comments in the past against installation of statues of Dalit icons.
The statue is more than twice the size of New York's Statue of Liberty and also dwarfs the 128-meter (400-feet) high Spring Temple Buddha in China, the world's next-biggest statue. The 597-foot-tall, bronze covered Statue of Unity is located in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Since the statue has been constructed on the Sadhu Bet Island on the Narmada River, visitors can see the Sardar Sarovar Dam laid out in front of them from there. He had promised the project despite criticism that India couldn't afford to spend so much money on a statue.
Air force jets and helicopters showered flower petals on the statue during the lavish ceremony, while some 5,000 police officers patrolled the area around the statue.
Local villagers have written to the PM saying the inauguration is "akin to celebrating someone's death" as the statue's construction entailed the wiping out of natural resources which had for years given farmers a living. Around 3,000 workers and 250 engineers worked together to create this statue.
Local legislator and community group leader Chotu Vasava said: "Tribal groups have been exploited by different governments, the ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is repeating it again". The Gujarat government said the 185 families moved to make way for the statue had been compensated and given 485ha of land.
The statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a key independence leader in India's history, stands at 182m.
Some political commentators have criticised Modi for his expenditure on the statue complex at a time when the adivasi indigenous people who farm the land acquired for it are in economic straits and have protested against it.
The bronze statue is made up of almost 100,000 tons of steel and concrete. "Is it right to erect such an imposing statue of Patel, a man of simplicity and a true Gandhian, who moved along with poor peasants", he said.