NewZNew (New Delhi) : Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off a “Run for Unity” and then briskly walked down Rajpath in the heart of Delhi on Friday morning with thousands of participants in a tribute to independent India’s first home minister and his hero Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 139th birth anniversary, being celebrated as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas or National Unity Day.
He also administered a unity pledge and praised Sardar Patel. “Through his skill, vision and love for the nation, Sardar Patel integrated the country. We can never forget his contribution,” the PM said, adding, “Without Sardar Patel, even Mahatma Gandhi seems incomplete.” He sought to make clear that today’s mega event was not an attempt to diminish any other national leader. “We should not divide history and legacy according to our ideologies,” he said and noted that today is also the death anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984.
In a reference likely to ruffle the Congress, he also brought up the anti-Sikh riots that followed Mrs Gandhi’s assassination, saying, “It is a misfortune of this country that 30 years ago, on the birth anniversary of such a leader an incident which shook the unity of nation took place…our own people were killed on that day.” Referring to the anti-Sikh riots that followed Indira Gandhi assassination in 1984, the PM said “the incident was not a wound on the hearts of people of a particular religion it was a dagger into the heart of thousands of years of country’s heritage and culture.”
Unlike his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh of the Congress did every year, PM Modi is not expected to visit Shakti Sthal, the monument that honours Mrs Gandhi. Neither have any of his ministers gone there. Dr Singh visited Shakti Sthal early this morning as did Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son and deputy Rahul Gandhi. President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari visited Shakti Sthal too.
The Congress has played down the lack of an official state ceremony on Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, saying Sonia Gandhi had two years ago asked the government, led then by her party, to curb expenditure on such functions. The BJP government has announced that it will observe the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel on October 31 every year as National Unity Day. Runs have been organised across the country simultaneously today.