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In a veiled attack on the Congress ahead of Gujarat polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that some parties and governments in the past have tried to run down and erase the contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in unifying the country immediately after Independence.
Flagging off a run to commemorate the 142nd birth anniversary of Patel, Modi said due to the statesmanship and political acumen of the country's first home minister, India is united today despite the colonial rulers' wish that it was disintegrated into smaller states after Independence.
"There have been attempts to run down Patel, to ensure that the contribution of Patel is forgotten. But Sardar is Sardar, whether any government or any party recognises his contribution or not but the nation and the youth will not forget him," he said without naming any government or party.
"The youth of India respects him and his contribution towards the building of our nation," he noted.
Modi's comment bears significance as it came ahead of the assembly elections in Gujarat, the state Patel belonged to.
Paying rich tribute to Patel, the prime minister said he had not only saved the country from the difficulties being faced immediately after Independence, but succeeded in uniting the whole nation.
"The British government wished that India was disintegrated into smaller states. But Patel used all means (Sam, dam,dand,bhed, rajneeti, kutneeti) and succeeded in uniting all princely states into a single nation within a very small span of time," he said.
Modi said generation after generation of Indians will continue to remember Patel, particularly theyouth, who will carry forward his legacy.
The 'Run for Unity', which began from the Major Dhyan ChandNational Stadium, saw the participation of a large numberof people, including sports personalities like Sardar Singh, Deepa Karmakar, Suresh Raina andKarnam Malleswari.
The 1.5 km run here came to an end near the India Gate C-Hexagon-ShahJahan Road radial.
Earlier, PresidentRam Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, the Prime Minister, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh paid floral tributes to Patel on Parliament street where his statues is installed.
The prime minister said everyone in the country is proud of Patel's contribution to India before it attained freedom and during the early years after the nation became independent.
"We salute Sardar Patel on his Jayanti. His momentous service and monumental contribution to India can never be forgotten," he said.
Stressing that the diversity is India's strength, Modi said there are many languages, religion, culture,customs, lifestyles and food habits.
"But these are our strength and these are our bright future.India is proud of our diversity," he said.
The prime minister said first President of India Rajendra Prasad had said that India has become a united nation only due to administrative acumen and strong leadership of Patel but the country was not giving him due respect.
"Rajendra Babu must be happy now, wherever is his soul, that we are remembering the contribution of Patel even though some people tried to run down and erase his contribution.The nation will continue to remember Patel," he said.
Modi said in some countries, people of the same faith are even not ready to tolerate each other and want to harm and kill each other.
But in India, there is diversity yet all are united.
"Our country must remain united.It is the responsibility of the 125 crore people to ensure that India remains united," he said.
At the beginning of his speech, Modi also paid tribute to former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi on her death anniversary.
Paying tribute to Patel, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said apart from uniting the nation, Patel also succeeded in facing the challenge of communal violence which broke out soon after the Independence.
"Sardar Patel was the main force behind upholding Indias unity and integrity at the time of Independence," he said.
The central government observes October 31 as 'RashtriyaEkta Diwas' to commemorate the birth anniversary of SardarPatel.
Several union ministers, including Ananth Kumar, Vijay Goel, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Hardeep Puri,seniorofficials and othersalso participated in the event.
Hockey player Sardar Singh said 'Run for Unity' is a commendable initiative to showcase the country's unity and integrity.
Gymnast Deepa Karmakar said she was proud to be part of the run, which is being organised to remember the contributions of Patel in unifying the country.
Patel was born on October 31, 1875, and passed away onDecember 15, 1950.