Tuesday, March 28th, 2023 05:16:18

India’s Bismarck

Updated: November 22, 2014 2:02 pm

“There is no doubt that by far the most important achievement of the present government is unification of the states into the Dominion of India. Had you failed in this, the results would have been disastrous. But since you succeeded, no one can see the disastrous consequences that you avoided. Nothing has added to the prestige of the present Government more than the brilliant policy you have followed with the States.” :- Lord Mountbatten’s letter to ‘Sardar’ Vallabhbhai Patel on June 19, 1948 in his capacity as first Governor-General of independent India.

Sardar Patel was truly an exceptional man and Indians owe much more to this architect of modern India in comparison to our other leaders. Most countrymen are totally unaware of Sardar Patel’s magnificent contributions to the solidarity and stability of India. We need to do much more to honour him than we have done so far.

If Mahatma Gandhi had not foisted Nehru as the Prime Minister of India and had let Sardar Patel as the ‘Indomitable Leader’ assume the mantle of Prime Minister, the history of India would have been different. But then, the Mahatma was known for his frailties and weaknesses. Patel was not only the principal organiser of the fight struggle, but also the architect of the new State when the fight was over. In history, leaders are seldom successful both as rebel and statesmen. Patel was one stark exception.

One important episode that could have changed the political lines of the country had shaped during the election for the Congress presidency in 1946 when, thirteen of the sixteen states had proposed Sardar Patel’s name for the post. It was a very crucial election, as the elected president of the Congress party would be later considered the first Prime Minister of independent India. Just a few days before the all-important election, Mahatma Gandhi requested Sardar Patel to leave the candidacy and support Jawaharlal Nehru. Sardar Patel, without pondering twice, stepped down. The nation paid the price.

Patel had an eagle-eyed strategic vision; he was far ahead of his times. His strength was political statecraft based on ‘political realism’ as opposed to Nehru’s ‘political idealism’. He had amply warned Nehru, in writing, both on his Kashmir and China policies. His deft handling of the Hyderabad State with minimal loss of life (only four jawans of the Indian Army were killed in the Hyderabad Police action) brought out the contrast between Nehru and Patel. Our losses in Kashmir and on the China front were only due to the lackadaisical approach of Nehru.

Even Mahatma Gandhi believed it was only Patel who could take up the challenge of unifying the hundreds of princely states. Reposing confidence in Sardar Patel, Mahatma Gandhi told him, “the problem of the States is so difficult that you alone can solve it”. Patel did not hesitate in using the policy of ‘Saam-Daam-Dand-Bhed’ (friendship, give-and-take, punishment, and divide-and-rule) for achieving his objective. Such was his resolve and craft that princely states were left with no other option but to merge with India. He used every trick in the book. He was polite to those who were reasonable and willing to play ball. He was tough with those who were reluctant and had their own designs, and did not hesitate in sending army wherever it was necessary.

Sardar Patel was a man of principles. A fierce nationalist, he never believed in compromising with his core philosophy of ‘nation first’. Sardar Patel was denied what he deserved on merit but even today he commands respect as India’s most admired political administrator. He will always be remembered as India’s first and last politician who could be termed as the ‘Iron Man of India’. It’s the bounden duty not just of Modi’s NDA, but every Indian citizen to educate each one constituting “We, the People of India” about the greatness of the Sardar – the Unifier Statesman of India.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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