Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday flagged off the 'run for unity' in commemoration of the 142nd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, saying his government had started the annual event to ensure that the legacy of the country's first home minister is not forgotten.
Attempts were made by some "people" in the past to erase the name and legacy of Patel from the nation's history, even though he dedicated his life to integrate India with one thread of unity after Independence, Modi said in an apparent attack on the Opposition, while addressing the event here.
"India's first President Rajendra Prasad once expressed this pain, observing that we had forgotten Sardar Patel very soon, even though India owes its existence (post-Independence) to his (Patel's) statesmanship and firm grip on administration. Today, when we are holding this 'run for unity,' Rajendra Babu's soul must be satisfied," he added.
The prime minister noted that 'unity in diversity' is "our speciality," even as the country's new generations may not have been introduced to Sardar's legacy.
"Sardar (Patel) was a 'Sardar' (leader). No matter any government approves it or not, a political party accepts his greatness or not, the youth of this country is not ready to forget Sardar Patel at all. It is the result of this resolve that we have rolled out 'run for unity' campaign," he said.
The 'run for unity' seeks to ensure that Patel and his "great contributions" to the building of the nation remain unforgotten, he added.
While addressing the event, the prime minister also remembered former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated on this day in 1984.
While flagging off the "run", the prime minister administered a pledge to the participants that they would carry forward the slogan of 'unity in diversity' and contribute in ensuring maintenance of "internal security" of the country.
The 'run for unity', which began from the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here, witnessed participation of a large number of people, particularly youth, including sports personalities like Sardar Singh, Dipa Karmakar, Suresh Raina and Karnam Malleswari.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and other diginitaries were present.
Earlier, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, the prime minister and the home minister offered floral tributes to Patel's statue on Parliament Street.