New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday flagged off an enthusiasm-filled Run for Unity and himself briskly walked down Rajpath after paying rich tributes to free India's first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Modi led the nation in paying tributes to Sardar Patel on his 139th birth anniversary, being commemorated as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas or National Unity Day, and recalled his key role in unifying a newly independent India.
The prime minister first paid floral tributes at the statue of Sardar Patel at Patel Chowk in the heart of New Delhi at 7.30 a.m.
He later addressed thousands of people, including school children, college students, sports persons and government officials, gathered to participate in the 'Run for Unity' at Vijay Chowk.
The prime minister, dressed in a white kurta-churidar with a red 'angvastra' draped across his shoulder, said that a country which forgets its history can never create history and that "we should not divide historical legacy on the basis of ideologies".
Modi referred to Patel's role in integrating princely states after India gained independence.
He said Mahatma Gandhi seems incomplete without Sardar Patel and they formed an "unbreakable pair".
He also referred to late prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination on this day in 1984, and in reference to the anti-Sikh riots that followed, he said the incident 30 years ago "had hurt the unity of the country" for which Patel had striven.
Modi also made the people take a pledge to work for the country's unity and integrity.
Modi enthused the crowd with some catchy slogans on India's unity among diversity - "Bhasha anek, bhav ek; rajya anek, desh ek; path anek, lakshya ek; boli anek, swar ek; rang anek, tiranga ek; samaj anek, Bharat ek; riwaj anek, sanskar ek; karya anek, sankalp ek; rah anek, manzil ek; chehre anek, muskan ek".
The people cheered, clapped, and chanted "Modi, Modi" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai".
The prime minister then flagged off the run, with a sea of enthusiastic supporters crowding around him with their mobiles held aloft trying to capture the moment as the he walked down Rajpath for some distance.
Earlier, Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, while addressing the crowd, said as a child he was very inspired by Sardar Patel and, in a reference to the previous Congress governments, added that the country has not done justice by Patel by ignoring his contribution to the country's unification.
Attired in a white T-shirt, white track pants and sports shoes, Naidu later went jogging down Rajpath, joined by ministerial colleagues and aides.
Hundreds of people, who were waiting in the Central Vista grounds flanking Rajpath, then swarmed on the road to join in the run, many wearing T-shirts with the slogan Run for Unity inscribed on it.
Wellknown sports people, including Gautam Gambhir and Vijender Singh, were also among the crowd and attracted a lot of attention.
Hundreds of senior school children, enthusiastic college students, security forces personnel, including from the National Security Guard attired in black, the Sashastra Seema Bal, and government officials all took part in the short run that culminated at India Gate.