Leaders across the political spectrum on Monday paid tributes to India’s first Home minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel on his birth anniversary, calling him “a hero” whose “contributions shaped modern India”. The BJP marked the occasion with “Run for Unity” rallies in different parts of the country.
At a special function held in Delhi’s Patel Chowk, President Droupadi Murmu and others paid floral tributes to Patel. Since 2014, Patel’s birth anniversary has been celebrated as the Rashtriya Ekta Divas, or National Unity Day.
In Gujarat’s Kevadia, where Patel’s “Statue of Unity” is located, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “India’s unity has never been a compulsion, but has been its uniqueness. This unity of our country has been an eyesore for our enemies. Not just today, but for thousands of years, and even during the period of our slavery, all foreign attackers did whatever they wanted to do to break this unity”.
The PM added, “We should note that these forces are not just our known enemies from outside, but many a time, those forces enter into our system in the form of slave mentality, those forces present themselves sometimes to us as a selfish motive, appeasement, nepotism, greed and corruption.”
Recalling Patel’s efforts in ensuring that former princely states merged with the Union of India, Modi said, “If our princely states would have not shown a deep sense of sacrifice and faith in Maa Bharati and decided not to join us, what would have happened? This impossible task was completed by Sardar Patel.”
Modi also remembered those who died in Sunday’s Morbi bridge collapse incident. “I am in Kevadia, but my heart goes out to those who died in the Morbi Bridge collapse tragedy,” he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke at the Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, a school in Delhi run by the Gujarat Education Society, where he called Patel a “karmayogi”.
“A man who is remembered long after his death can only be called great, that was Sardar … There is a public opinion in the country that if Sardar was made the first prime minister of India, the country would not have faced many problems it is facing today.”
Earlier in the day, Shah inaugurated the “Run for Unity” challenge from the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in the national capital.
Calling Patel’s efforts in ensuring India’s territorial integrity “no less than climbing the Himalayas up and down five times”, Education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the Congress leader stood for “decisiveness during challenging times”. Pradhan made the comments in an address to students at a youth debate organised by the Lok Sabha Secretariat. He was also expected to lead the Unity Run from Delhi University.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed a gathering in Lucknow before flagging off the “Run for Unity”. He said, “A country which has a great hero like Sardar Patel cannot kneel in front of terrorism, extremists, separatists and the corrupt. You must have seen that Naxalism is coming to an end, Kashmir has come under the ambit of the Constitution of India and a new beginning has been made, and the north-eastern states, where extremism was at its peak earlier, are again taking steps for the unity of India.”
Former Congress president and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi, who is currently leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Telangana, tweeted, “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s ironclad will united India. The most fitting tribute to him would be to keep the flame of unity he ignited shining brighter than ever.”
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge offered floral tributes to Patel at the Congress headquarters while senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh hailed Patel on his 147th birth anniversary. “Irrespective of whatever the Distorians peddle, Patel and Nehru formed a unique jugalbandi for almost 30 years that shaped modern India,” he said in a tweet and shared a photograph of former Prime Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “Every countryman will always be indebted for his contribution in the making of a united India. Let’s all the countrymen together assimilate the thoughts of Sardar Patel and make our great India the number one country of the world.”
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur is scheduled to deliver the annual Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture on the occasion of National Unity Day. Eminent personalities such as C Rajagopalachari, Dr Zakir Hussain, Morarji Desai, APJ Abdul Kalam, Jayant Narlikar, and MS Swaminathan have delivered the lecture in the past.