NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday slammed "previous governments" for ignoring Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's legacy to unite the country.
"India is a country full of diversity. 'Unity in Diversity' is our speciality," Modi said while flagging off the 'Run for Unity' on the birth anniversary of the first deputy Prime Minister at the Dhyan Chand Stadium here.
Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister of India, was born on October 31, 1875 in Nadiad, a small village in Gujarat.
Popularly known as the 'Iron Man' of India, he was conferred with the highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, in 1991 for his services to the nation.
Apparently targetting previous governments led by the Congress party, Modi said: "People earlier tried their best to ensure that the contribution of Sardar Patel was forgotten and diminished."
"But the people and the youth of India respects him and his contribution towards the building of our nation," the Prime Minister said.
Highlighting the contribution of Patel, Modi said: "Using his skills, and determination Sardar Patel saved India from the problems that emerged soon after Partition. He ensured India did not remain split into small princely states."
We salute Sardar Patel on his Jayanti. His momentous service and monumental contribution to India can never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/t9TFeii3IP— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 31, 2017
Modi also emphasised that "our country should remain one". "The country that Patel has given, retaining its unity is the responsibility of all Indians."
"Therefore, all generations should know how he maintained that unity. We are celebrating his birth anniversary as 'Rashtriya Ekta Diwas' (National Unity Day)," Modi said.
Referring to the nation's first President Rajendra Prasad, Modi said: "Today his soul will be happy to know that Sardar Patel has not been forgotten."
Along with President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice-President Venakaiah Naidu, PM Modi paid floral tributes to Sardar Patel.
Modi also remembered former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on her 33rd death anniversary.
Prime Minister Modi, in his recent monthly 'Mann ki Baat' radio broadcast, had paid another tribute to Sardar Patel, saying that he laid the foundation of a "modern, united India".
“Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel ensured that millions of Indians were brought under the ambit of one nation, one constitution and his message of unity and patriotism was an inspiration for New India,” the Prime Minister had said in the 37th episode of his radio programme.
'Run for Unity'
The 'Run for Unity', which began from the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, saw the participation of a large number of people, including sports personalities like Sardar Singh, Deepa Karmakar, Suresh Raina and Karnam Malleswari.
The 1.5 km run here came to an end near the India Gate C-Hexagon-Shah Jahan Road radial.
Several union ministers, including Ananth Kumar, Vijay Goel, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Hardeep Puri, senior officials and others also 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.