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