Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday said Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel will continue to inspire generations to come, and the 'Statue of Unity', dedicated to Patel, is a message to the world that India's future is bright and nobody can break the country's unity and integrity.
Addressing a gathering at the world's tallest 'Statue of Unity' at Kevadia in Gujarat's Narmada district on the occasion of Sardar Patel's birth anniversary, Shah also targeted the opposition, saying efforts were made to forget the 'Iron Man of India'.
Recalling Sardar Patel's contribution in uniting India after independence, Shah said it was because of the former's effort that Lakshadweep could become an integral part of India.
"It is unfortunate that efforts were made to forget Sardar Saheb. After independence, his contributions were never given proper respect and place. He was neither conferred the Bharat Ratna (the country's highest civilian honour), nor proper respect. But it is said, how long can clouds keep the sun hidden," the senior BJP leader said.
As the situation changed in the country, Sardar Patel received the Bharat Ratna, and the world's tallest statue, dedicated to Sardar Saheb, was also constructed to pay homage to him, he said.
"The 'Statue of Unity' is a message to the entire world that nobody can break India's unity and integrity and nobody can tamper with India's universality," he said.
"It was Sardar Saheb's inspiration that has kept the country united, and it is his inspiration that will keep us united and take the country forward," Shah said.
Recalling Patel's contribution in uniting India by bringing together some of the princely states, Shah said nobody has paid attention to his contribution to make Lakshadweep a part of India.
"When India became independent on August 15, Sardar Sahib sent the Indian Naval Ship Tir to Lakshadweep. A few hours after the Indian Navy unfurled the tricolour, Pakistani ships reached there. But, by that time, the tricolour was unfurled. It is because of this that Lakshadweep is a part of India, and a large part of India's coastline is secured from there," Shah said.
He further said that Kevadia, where the 182-metre tall 'Statue of Unity' is located, has become "a pilgrimage of India's unity, nationality, and patriotism".
The statue is a true homage to Sardar Patel by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had visualised the world's tallest structure, Shah said.
A leader like Sardar Patel is born once in centuries and inspires people for centuries, he added.
"At one time, Acharya Chanakya united India. Centuries later, Sardar Saheb united India. It is the result of it that the country is today proudly strengthening its place in the world," the Union minister said.
He also asked citizens to remember the achievements, struggles and sacrifices the country made from the date of independence till today, and to take a pledge to carry the nation forward.
As the country celebrates the 'Azadi Ka Amrit Maohtsav', "we have to pay our homage to all the martyrs, remember them and take inspiration from them all to inspire our children and youth," he said.
Shah said the government's decision to celebrate October 31 as the 'Rashtriya Ekta Diwas' (National Unity Day)' was taken so that Sardar Patel's struggles for India's independence and his efforts to unite the country continue to inspire people for centuries.
"PM Modi has taken the pledge for a bright, developed, prosperous, secured, cultured and educated India. To achieve this, we should celebrate the Amrit Mahotsav as the year of pledge," he said.
Prime Minister Modi has brought about changes in several areas in the last seven years, whether it is about India's security, economic reforms, or the 'Make in India' initiative, he said.
"A hope for a different India has been born among 130 crore Indians, the one which was imagined by Sardar Saheb," he said.
Due to Modi's efforts to bring the country's 60 crore poor into the mainstream, they have become connected to the country's development process, Shah said.
"Modi ji has set a target of a five trillion dollar economy, secure India, educated India as per the new education policy, and a target for the pride of our languages. Today, on the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, we should take a pledge to make the country strong and as per the dreams of Sardar Patel, by walking on the path shown by him," he said.