Asserting that "Swachh Bharat" mission is "beyond politics" and inspired by "patriotism", he invoked Mahatma Gandhi's vision of a "clean and developed" India as he formally kicked off the five-year-long campaign, which will cover 4,041 statutory towns, on the 145th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation.

The tech-savvy Modi even launched his own version of ALS ice bucket challenge, nominating nine eminent personalities including Sachin Tendulkar, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, industrialist Anil Ambani along with several actors like Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Kamal Hassan to spread awareness on the issue and asked them to continue the chain.

At a function at Rajpath here, Modi administered a pledge to people to make India clean, but not before himself sweeping the pavement in Valmiki Basti, a colony of sanitation workers here.

President Pranab Mukherjee launched the campaign at Kirnahar Shib Chandra High School, where he studied, in West Bengal, and said every Indian should devote two hours daily or at least 100 hours annually in cleanliness drive.

It is for the first time government employees from the level of peons to Secretary were called to the office on 'Gandhi Jayanti', which is a national holiday, to be part of the 'Clean India' campaign. There are about 31 lakh central government employees across the country.

In Pics: Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan

In the states too, the event was marked by fervour and symbolism as the Chief Ministers and Governors started the drive by administering the pledge and joined students and common people in cleaning public buildings, parks, schools, railway platforms and roads.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that Rs 20 lakh per annum will be allocated to each village panchayat for the Clean India campaign. While the Urban Development Ministry will allocate Rs 62,000 crore for cleaning towns across the country, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation will spend Rs 1 lakh 34 thousand crores for the programme. 

Debunking criticism that his government has been taking credit for every achievement, the Prime Minister acknowledged the efforts of all previous governments to make India clean and even went on to praise Congress' front outfit Seva Dal.

"I am not talking politics...this is beyond politics. This is inspired my patriotism not politics. We do not have to do with an eye on politics...I say that with a clean heart... If we paint this again with a brush of politics, we will again do a disservice to mother India.

Read more: Salman, Tendulkar to spread Clean India message

"All the governments in this country have made one or the other effort to do this work. Several political, social and cultural organisations have made efforts in this direction. I greet all those, who have worked," Modi said.

Recalling that he had congratulated all governments even from the ramparts of Red Fort, Modi said,"even today from this stage, I greet and salute all the governments—central, state and municipal, social organisations which have worked in this direction, whether they are leaders from Sarvodaya or workers of Seva Dal. I launch this programme with their blessings."

The Prime Minister stressed on the need to refrain from making political barbs on the issue.

"Everybody before us has worked for it. Under Mahatma Gandhi's leadership, the Congress had led it...Who was successful, who was not. Let us not get into it who has done it, who has not. We should work responsibly," he said.

Reacting to it, Congress said Swachh Bharat is "clearly a good thing" but cautioned that "it should not remain a mere photo opportunity" and added that "apprehensions are that it may become symbolic".

Read more: Kejriwal cleans choked drains near PM's house

"This is basically a programme given by Mahatma Gandhi, which the Congress has always been doing. The government and the Prime Minister himself accepted that Congress Seva Dal has always been doing this. He has appreciated Congress leaders...," Congress leader Rajiv Shukla said.

"I request the Prime Minister that he ensures that the drive continues. It's not that it should be there only for one, two or three days. Apprehensions are that it may become symbolic."

He also said that Mahatma Gandhi should be accepted in totality and not in piecemeal. "Not that we accept certain aspects of Gandhi and defy others...," he said.

Administering a pledge to people to make India clean, Modi said that this task is not the responsibility only of safai karamcharis (sanitation workers) or the government but of all the 125 crore Indians.

He said that today's campaign should not be seen as a mere photo opportunity.    The Prime Minister said that he is aware that the criticism of this programme will begin in just a few days but said he is prepared for this exuding confidence that the countrymen will not let him down.

The Cabinet had last month decided to merge the 'Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan', a campaign for rural sanitation with Swachh Bharat Mission.

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Modi pays surprise visit to police station


Narendra Modi on Thursday paid a surprise visit to the Mandir Marg police station in central Delhi to check how clean it was.


On his way to the Valmiki Colony to launch his Clean India campaign, Modi suddenly stopped his car and walked into the police station, a police officer who witnessed it all told IANS.


The inspection was not planned and took the officials accompanying Modi by surprise. The prime minister spent a few minutes at the police station checking the sanitation and other facilities.