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Thousands join Narendra Modi's Run for Unity

Last updated on: December 15, 2013 17:14 IST

Thousands join Narendra Modi's Run for Unity

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Flayed as a divisive figure by his critics, Narendra Modi led a marathon 'run for unity' organised by Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday across the country to mark death anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, whose legacy he has sought to espouse in the campaign for 2014 general election.

"This run is being organised with a determination to unite the people, unite the villages and unite the nation," the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate said flagging of the event in Vadodara, adding, "This is an effort to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of all Indians. Please do not view it from prism of politics."

Over 100 kilometres away in Ahmedabad, senior BJP leader L K Advani inaugurated the run, saying it was a true tribute to Patel on his 63rd death anniversary and praised the people for turning up in large numbers.

Both Modi and Advani, who fell out over the naming of the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate, have been praised as 'Iron man' by their party leaders and supporters. The title was originally used for Patel, India's first Home Minister. 

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BJP president Rajnath Singh and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley flagged off the marathon from the party headquarters in New Delhi. City leaders also participated in the 2.5 km run.

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.

Irani said, "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."

The participants wore T-shirts with a picture of Sardar Patel on it. The theme for the race was good governance and national integration. 565 places were chosen by BJP for the race as Patel had integrated this number of princely states into the Union of India at the time of Independence.

The BJP is also reaching out to people to collect iron pieces for the ambitious 'Statue of Unity' that Modi wants to build in memory of Sardar Patel -- touted as the tallest structure in the world. 

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Image: BJP President Rajnath Singh takes part in the Run for Unity in Delhi. Also seen are BJP leaders Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel


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The Congress, which has accused Modi of trying to appropriate Patel's legacy, attacked the Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP saying it is ironical that those responsible for communalising the country are organising the event.

"Who divided the body politic of India is organising a Unity Run in memory of Sardar Patel who charged RSS of communalising India," Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said on Twitter.

"What an irony! Who organised demolition of Babri Masjid, who allowed innocent to be killed in 2002, who honoured accused of Muzzafarnagar riots," Singh added.

"Which led to assassination of Mahatma Gandhi," he said in another tweet.

To Congress' chagrin, Modi and BJP have always insinuated that Patel was wronged by his party and was not given his due credit. Modi had even stated that Patel should have been the Prime Minister instead of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Advani today said that "the country is showing the respect towards the great man that should have always been there".

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Referring to Gujarat, Modi said it has moved ahead due to "spirit of peace, unity and 'sadbhavana'."

Paying rich tributes to Patel, Modi said, "Sardar Patel devoted his life to unify the nation. He integrated the common people in the freedom struggle and made efforts to rid the nation of the colonial mindset. He undid the mindset of divisiveness and united the nation.

"When we remember Gandhiji we remember truth, non-violence, sacrifice, simplicity, Satyagraha; when we remember Sardar Patel, we remember Ekta, Surajya and Kisan (unity, good governance and the farmer)," he said.

Describing India's diversity was its strength, the Gujarat Chief Minister added: "Our diversity is not something that is on paper. It is the manifestation of our strength. It is not only our identity but also our tradition."

"Good governance" was the need of the hour, said Modi in an apparent potshot at Congress-led UPA government.

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Triggering a flutter in the ruling Congress-led UDF in Kerala, Government Chief Whip and KC (M) leader P C George inaugurated the run at Kottayam.

More than 30,000 people from different walks of life participated in 14 centres in Kerala. Sivagiri Math Secretary Guru Prasad flagged off the run in Thiruvanathapuram and Olympian K M Beenamol were among the prominent personalities who participated.

Olympian Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore participated in Jaipur while BJP leader Vinay Katiyar led the event in Kanpur. Former India cricketer VVS Laxman was among those who participated in the event in Hyderbad.

In Patna, a galaxy of BJP leaders like former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and Rajya Sabha Deputy Leader of Opposition Ravishankar Prasad participated




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