By: Er. Prabhat Kishore
The global history is full of numerous personalities, who had reserved their name & fame through their merit and work, but met rare persons, who have changed not only the history but geography of a country without shedding a drop of blood. Sardar Patel, the Iron Man, was the uncommon personality who carried out the challengeable task of unification and consolidation of fragmented India and laid a firm basis for its orderly progress.
Born on 31st October 1875, Vallabh Bhai Patel was a man of action. He came from a farmer’s family and agriculture was his only culture. Unlike some other stalwarts, whose leadership came suddenly and surprisingly, his eminence was steadily from municipality level to national level.
Patel was a realist. He believed in action, not just ideology. He wanted to face the problem as man of responsibility rather than engaging political wrangles of rights and wrongs of one principle or another. He was a man of faith and determination and always asked to read Gita, Ramayan & Gandhi’s ashram Bhajanawali.
In August 1910, Patel went to England to become a barrister. He passed his final examination in June 1912 from Lincoln’s Inn with prize. When Gandhi came to speak at the Gujarat Club in 1916, Patel did not give any response to him. On another occasion he just went to listen to Gandhi, and unexpectedly so inspired that he became his follower.
Patel followed the philosophy of Tilak, while Gandhi regarded moderate Gokhale as his Guru. He followed the path of action which was even more militant than that of Tilak. In 1917 he organized successful satyagraha in Gujarat against the increased land tax. In 1917 he was elected to the Ahmedabad municipality and became its president in 1924.
Although Patel was with Gandhi, he never shared Gandhi’s view on Khilafat movement. He said that when Indians were slave, it was criticable to fight for Turkish Calipha or for independence of Arabs, Palestine or Syria.
The year 1928 saw the emergence of Patel as Sardar. The Bardoli Satyagraha of farmers under his leadership against the arbitrary levying of taxes was so successful that the government yield within few days. This became a symbol of hope, strength and resistance of the farmers and act as a “Sanjiwani Buty” for the national movement.
In 1929 for Congress Presidentship, ten provinces suggested for Gandhi, five to Patel & three to Nehru. But as per Gandhi’s wish Nehru was elected. In 1931, Patel was elected Congress president. After failure of Round Table Conference in London, the civil disobedience movement started. Congress was banned and Patel jailed from 1932 to 1934.
In 1937 Patel was asked to stand for Congress Presidentship, but knowing Gandhi’s wish he suggested Nehru to re-elect. He was the chairman of the party election committee for provincial elections in 1937. He roared, “Congress steam roller when set in action all kankars and patthar trying to oppose it would be levelled” and that happened. Congress formed ministry in seven provinces. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Patel as chairman of Congress Parliamentary Subcommittee declared that if the war was for status quo, then the Congress had nothing to do; and if for world based democracy; then interested. India did not want the victory of Nazism or the defeat of Allies, but wanted freedom.
At the AICC meeting in Mumbai on the eve of “Bharat Chhoro” movement in August 1942, Patel’s speech reached all corners of the country about non-payment of taxes, civil disobedience and diverse kinds of action. He appealed “let the posts and telegraph workers go on strike and let the government servant give up their services”. He was arrested on 9th August 1942 and detained in Ahmedabad fort till June 1945.
1946 was the most curious period of history, when the new president of the Congress was to be elected. The person who was to be the Congress president in 1946 had a crucial role to play, as it was certain that transfer of power would take place soon and the Congress President would lead the interim government. As per the Congress Constitution, its President was elected on a majority of the recommendations from provincial committees. Out of fifteen provincial Congress Committees, twelve proposals were for Sardar Patel and three for none. Not a single proposal was for Nehru, despite Gandhi’s frequent statements in his favour. But Gandhi had nothing to do with the masses’ dream, as he wanted Nehru to be the Prime Minister at any cost. He showed his displeasure over the proposals from provinces. Also, Nehru threatened to leave the party, if the leadership was not handed over to him. To elect (select!) Nehru as Congress president, only a formality then was done by signing fifteen local Congress working committee members from Delhi. Thus public choice for India’s first prime minister was sidelined and Gandhi’s choice came into existence. Country missed its dream of Sardar Patel as first Prime Minister. On 2nd September 1946, Nehru was invited to form interim government and Patel was inducted as the Deputy Prime minister with Home portfolio.
In 1946 Nehru had to leave the Congress Presidency. Patel wanted Kripalani but after sometime he resigned. Then Gandhi wanted socialists Jai Prakash Narayan or Narendra Dev to succeed Kripalani, but Patel wanted Rajendra Prasad. Prasad took over as Congress President. Similarly, in September 1950, for Congress Presidency Patel blessed Purushottam Das Tandon while Nehru supported Acharya Janaki Ballabh Kripalani. Finally, Tandon won. All the above happenings reflect that Patel had full command over Congress as against Nehru and even Gandhi.
Muslim League joined the interim government to fight for Pakistan, as indicated by Gazanafer Ali. For their purpose they wanted the Home Ministry. The Viceroy requested Patel to surrender his portfolio; but instead he resigned. Later the League was given Finance Ministry instead of Home. League rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan on 5th February 1947.
Patel was against banning the RSS. Terming them misguided patriots he said, “By danda you cannot suppress any organization. Danda is meant for thieves & dacoits. The RSS men love their country. Only trend of their thought is diverted and it may be changed by congressmen’s love”.
After independence the most vital problem was balkanization of India as nearly 600 princely states were free to either integrate with India or Pakistan or remain independent. The vital task of merger with Indian union was neither possible by Gandhi’s fast nor Nehru’s ideology. This was possible only by man of action Patel. India lost territory of 3.6 lakh square miles with a population of 81.5 million as a result of partition; but gained 5 lakh square miles with 86 million populations by integration.
Although difficulty came in accession of most of the princely states, but most critical were the three states namely, Junagarh, Hyderabad and Kashmir. After some deliberation the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the accession paper, but the raiders, along with Pakistani army &Muslim police of Maharaja, attacked Kashmir. The rulers of Junagarh and Hyderabad declared themselves independent Islamic states although the Muslim population was only 10 percent. Patel had to send army in all the three states. The Army liberated Junagarh and Hyderabad and was also proceeding forward to remove Kashmir from the invaders. But Nehru’s ideology came in the way, who wanted to settle the Kashmir issue amicably. So the army had to stop and nearly one-third part of Kashmir remains in the grip of Pakistan. On 1st January 1948, Nehru referred the Kashmir issue to the United Nations against the wish of Patel, and thus digging his own grave.
Patel wanted a strong and unified country. He always opposed reorganization of states on linguistic basis. He was against class war and Marxism. He opposed the nationalization of industries in current circumstances. He said that nationalization could succeed only if the government was able to manage the industries efficiently, but this was difficult for it had neither men nor resources even to run the administration. So, instead of nationalization Patel felt that industrialists should be allowed to manage the industries and increase the wealth of the country.
On international policy, Patel differed with Nehru. In his prophetic letter dated 7th November 1950, he condemned Chinese intervention in Tibet and cautioned the PM detailing the implications for India of Tibet’s invasion & to remain always alert at India-Tibet boundary. The warning came true when after sometime China attacked capturing more than 38000 square KM of our territory.
Thus the year 1946 was the turning point in the Indian history. Had Patel been the Prime Minister, the various policies on national, international, economic, education, border security issue, Tibet issue etc. would all have different and today India would have a superpower. First Indian governor general & later Union Home Minister C Rajagopalachari said,” Gandhi had made blunder mistake in wanting that Nehru and not Patel should be the prime minister. Had Patel been the Prime Minister and Nehru the Foreign Minister, India would have avoided many of the errors she was led into – under Jawaharlal Nehru and (from) glamour – (of) egalitarianism, which captivated his innocent heart.”
In 1950, Patel’s health was deteriorating day by day. He was also under pressure due to Nehru’s style of governance and his vision towards Kashmir, Tibet and China. Unfortunately, on 15th December 1950, Patel passed away leaving the country & the masses leaderless. After entering public life, Patel selflessly lived each and every moment for the people and the motherland, which his predecessor political leaders neither followed nor goose-step. (The Author is a technocrat and educationist)