Lauding Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's work as the country's first home minister, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday said present India exists because of the late leader's futuristic vision.
Adityanath was speaking at a programme here to mark the 144th birth anniversary of Patel, who was also India's first deputy prime minister.
Patel was born on October 31, 1875, at Nadiad in Gujarat. As independent India's first home minister, he is credited with merging numerous states into the Union of India.
"Today many anti-national forces are active. They are constantly conspiring to divide the nation. We must expose such forces and thwart their evil intentions," Adityanath said.
"Sardar Patel as the first home minister of the country successfully did this work. The merger of 563 princely states after independence is proof of his competence. Present India exists because of his futuristic vision," he said.
Adityanath also paid floral tributes to Patel's statue at the GPO Park here before flagging off the 'Run for Unity'.
The Modi government has been observing Patel's birth anniversary as 'Rashtriya Ekta Diwas' or National Unity Day since 2014. On this day, 'Run for Unity' marathons are organised across the country.
Speaking about the Statue of Unity, a 182-metre metal sculpture of Patel, Adityanath said Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to construct it to tell people about the former home minister's contribution in uniting the country.
"This was done so that people know about the work Sardar Patel did for the nation. In order to involve every citizen of the nation in this task, iron was collected from every household to build the statue," the chief minister said.
Located in Gujarat's Narmada district, the Statue of Unity is the world's tallest.
Stating that many people had made sacrifices for India's independence, Adityanath called on the residents of Uttar Pradesh to resolve to keep the freedom intact.
State ministers Brajesh Pathak, Gopalji Tandon, Mahendra Singh, Director General of Uttar Pradesh Police O P Singh, Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi and several other dignitaries were also present on the occasion.