hi INDiA Copyright 2020
New Delhi, Dec 16: The BJP on Sunday organised the "Run for Unity" across the country to mark the 63rd death anniversary of India's first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and seek support for the construction of a 182-metre statue of him in Gujarat.
A brainchild of Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the programme was part of hundreds of rallies held simultaneously across the country to spread the message of national unity and to seek support for the mega project.
Called the "Statue of Unity", it will be installed in the middle of the Narmada river in Gujarat.
The Sardar Vallabhai Patel Ekta Trust, which organised the event, invited all Indians to participate, irrespective of community, caste, religion and creed, and age.
Modi flagged off a "Run for Unity" marathon in Vadodara as part of a massive outreach programme to collect iron for the statue.
"This run is being organised with a determination to unite the people, unite the villages and unite the nation," said the Gujarat chief minister.
"This is an effort to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of all Indians. Please do not view it from prism of politics," he said.
In Ahmedabad, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani inaugurated the run, saying it was a true tribute to Patel on his 63rd death anniversary.
He praised the people for turning up in large numbers.
The Congress, which has accused Modi of trying to appropriate Patel's legacy, termed the exercise ironical.
"It is ironical that the BJP responsible for communalising the country is organising the event," Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal said.
The unity run was also held in major cities across India.
In Delhi, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley flagged off the marathon from the party headquarters.
Party MP and spokesperson Prakash Javadekar took part in the marathon in Hyderabad, while actor-turned-MP Smriti Irani led the race in West Bengal.
"I think today in the country, we have over 50 lakh participants in the 'Run for Unity' and I am grateful to all those who participated because they are contributing towards the unity of India," Irani said.
The participants wore T-shirts with a picture of Sardar Patel on it. The theme for the run was good governance and national integration.
The BJP is also reaching out to people to collect iron pieces for the statue touted as the tallest structure in the world.
Modi also addressed a huge rally in Dehradun where the BJP's Uttarakhand unit engaged several leaders including former chief ministers B.C. Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank to galvanise people.
In Patna, BJP leaders including former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Rajya Sabha Deputy Leader of Opposition Ravishankar Prasad, Leader of Opposition in the state legislative assembly Nandkishore Yadav, party's Bihar unit in charge Dharmendra Pradhan and Gujarat MP Purushottam Rupala participated in the run.