With Prime Minister Narendra Modi preparing to lead the nation-wide celebrations of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s birth anniversary on Friday, the Congress reacted sharply, saying no leader or government can make people forget the legacy and contribution of former PM Indira Gandhi.
While the UPA regime observed October 31 primarily as Gandhi’s death anniversary, the NDA government has thrown its weight behind Patel’s legacy.
The cabinet decided this month that the central government will not commemorate the birth or death anniversaries of any departed national leaders except Mahatma Gandhi.The PM will flag off the "Run for Unity" event at Delhi’s Vijay Chowk on Friday morning and may also run for a short spell, sources said.
But Modi, till Thursday evening, had no plans to go to Indira Gandhi’s memorial Shakti Sthal. Many Congress leaders including party chief Sonia Gandhi and her children, Rahul and Priyanka, will assemble there to pay their respects.
“As of now, there is no plan for the PM to go to Shakti Sthal. His programmes are planned at Patel Chowk and Rajpath,” said an official.
BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Shakti Sthal on Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary when he was PM, although he wasn’t known to have gone there on October 31.
The PM’s first stop on Friday will be Patel Chowk near Parliament where he will pay floral tributes to Sardar Patel at 7:30am.
Modi and urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu will then go to Vijay Chowk at 7:40am where they will address a gathering before the PM flags off the Run for Unity.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor termed it “disgraceful” that the government was “ignoring the martyrdom of our only Prime Minister who was killed in office in the line of duty.”
The Congress has repeatedly accused Modi of trying to appropriate the legacy of Patel, a lifelong Congress member.
“No one can overshadow anyone’s legacy. Both Patel and Gandhi have contributed to the country. No single leader, no single government can ever make people forget the legacy and contribution of any such great leaders,” Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said.
Maken also pointed out that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, too, had suggested two years ago that such celebrations and observances be left to respective political parties and trusts.
Early security preparations for Friday’s events also resulted in an unexpected half-working day for thousands of government employees. The security agencies decided to close 28 government establishments, ministerial offices, museums and bank buildings at 2:00pm on Thursday.
The government asked senior-level officials in central ministries to participate in the Run for Unity, though participation is optional for junior employees. The officers have been asked to come by 7:00am for the run to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister.
President Pranab Mukherjee, too, will take part in the celebrations by flagging off the Run for Unity in the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt at 8:15am. “The residents and staff of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President’s Body Guard, the Army Guard and the Delhi Police will participate in the Run,” said a Rashtrapati Bhavan release.
Home minister Rajnath Singh will attend a Run for Unity programme before the Sardar Patel statue in Hyderabad’s Nampally, a government release said.