File photo: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue in Gujarat.
New Delhi: Several Union ministers participated in the 'Run for Unity' across the country Wednesday to mark the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the statue of the country's first Home Minister in Gujarat.
At a special function held in the national capital, President Ram Nath Kovind and others paid floral tributes at Patel's statue on his birth anniversary, which is observed as 'Rashtriya Ekta Divas'.
The ruling BJP has described Patel as the man who thwarted efforts to disintegrate India.
Had Sardar Patel not united the country, we would need visas to see lions or pay homage at Somnath or view the Charminar in Hyderabad, the prime minister said while unveiling Patel's statue, the tallest in the world at 182 metres, in Kevadiya.
Several party leaders, including Modi, have accused the Congress of "ignoring" the efforts of Patel, B R Ambedkar and Subhash Chandra Bose in the freedom struggle and creation of post-independence India.
The Congress, in turn, has accused the BJP of appropriating its leaders like Patel for political interests.
Even before the BJP came to power in 2014, it had organised a similar event in December 2013 to mark the death anniversary of Patel.
On this day in 2014, Modi as Prime Minister, had presided over the 'Run for Unity' event at Rajpath.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his cabinet colleagues Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel Wednesday participated in the 'Run For Unity' event organised at different places in the city.
The home minister and Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore flagged off the main event in Delhi.
In Tamil Nadu, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman participated in the run. In Guwahati, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda flagged off the run.