Friday, August 19th, 2022 01:50:07

Why Sardar Patel?

Updated: November 22, 2014 12:41 pm

Annual remembrance of the dead is a commonplace in India where ancestors are revered long after their passing, on their so-called “death anniversary”. For the past three decades, October 31 has been the day when India commemorated the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the country’s first female prime minister who was shot by her bodyguards in 1984. On this day, newspapers usually carried full-page pictures of the slain Congress party leader with her distinctive streak of white hair and ceremonies are often held in her honour. This year though, on the 30th anniversary of her assassination, when people might have expected the commemorations to be flavourful, the presence of Mrs. Gandhi appeared diminished.

In her place, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the media have installed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, another much-less talked about Congress party leader, who was born on the very same day October 31, 1875. India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is a long-time admirer of Sardar Patel and has been laying the foundations—quite literally—for the past year to install him in the consciousness of the Indian people. While he was chief minister of Gujarat, Modi laid a foundation stone for a statue of Sardar Patel, dubbed Statue of Unity, on October 31 last year.

“This country will always have one regret. Had Sardar Patel been our first prime minister, the face and destiny of the country would have been different,” Mr. Modi said a couple of days before laying the statue’s foundation stone. This year he declared October 31 to be observed Rashtriya Ekta Diwas or National Unity Day, in honour of Patel. The government instructed authorities to direct schools and colleges to organise events on this day to honour Patel’s contributions to India’s unity, safety and security. An early morning televised running race titled the “Run for Unity” was held in New Delhi. Before he waved the starting flag, Mr. Modi led the chant of “Sardar Patel amar rahe,” or “Long live Sardar Patel.”

All this emphasis on Sardar Patel’s legacy, bring us to a question:Why Patel? What is so special about him? This yearning is no conundrum. It is not an enigma that is hard to unravel. In an era of increasing political uncertainty precipitated by effete, non-existent leadership, one cannot but invoke the formidable, unwavering captaincy replete with logic, foresight and realism that Sardar Patel provided at a time infinitely more challenging and more complex than the present scenario.

In the current high-decibel, tetchy debate about Sardar Patel, certain facts need to be clarified and re-emphasised, misperceptions need to be allayed and assumptions need to be reinforced by palpable evidence to comprehend the true message of the Sardar’s life. It is imperative that we turn back the pages of history to make a valid and objective assessment of the man in contention; a man who has at different times been referred to as the ‘Bismarck’ of India; the ‘Iron Man’ and India’s first deputy Prime Minister.

Using an array of methods—gentle persuasion, forceful coercion and even military intervention—Patel moulded the 500-odd princely states that existed under British rule into a homogeneous viable administrative entity; a robust nation that has admirably withstood the tugs and pulls of extraneous and internal divisive forces and remains in place nearly 67 years later.

Without Patel’s accomplishment, India would have degenerated into another ‘moth-eaten’ Pakistan dotted with islands of contradictions within its midst; irritants with the potential to morph into enemy states or terrorist havens in modern times: a definite recipe for failure. India would not have survived in its present form. His astute unification is a priceless treasure that he bequeathed to the people of India. The Times (of London) said that Vallabhbhai’s achievement of the integration of the Indian States would rank with that of Bismarck and probably higher. The Manchester Guardian rightly pointed: “Without Patel, Gandhiji’s idea would have had less practical influence and Nehru’s idealism less scope. Patel was not only the organiser of the fight for freedom but also the architect of the new State when the fight was over. The same man is seldom successful as rebel and statesman. Sardar Patel was the exception.” Lord Wavell wrote in his diary that Sardar Patel “is certainly the most impressive of the Congress leaders and has the best balance”. The Sardar shared Wavell’s belief that India can be governed firmly or not at all. Our first President Rajendra Prasad wrote in May 1959: “That there is today an India to think and talk about is very largely due to Sardar Patel’s statesmanship and firm administration…Yet we are apt to ignore him.”

Was Sardar Patel Communal?

People, albeit a few, consider Patel a communal person. Even Jawaharlal Nehru had taunt Patel with the epithet of being “a total communalist” at one cabinet meeting. Political correctness was not Patel’s forte, honesty was. His intuitive discernment pierced through the guiles of those who would do India harm and laid bare their true intent. He was not afraid to call a spade a spade and it was this bluntness that created the misperception of him being a communalist. Ramchandra Guha , a noted historian, in his book India After Gandhi outlining the difference between Nehru’s assessment of the minority problem and Patel’s, writes: “Nehru felt that it was the responsibility of the Congress and the government to make the Muslims in India feel secure. Patel on the other hand was inclined to place the responsibility on the minorities themselves. He once told Nehru that the ‘Muslim citizens in India have a responsibility to remove the doubts and misgivings entertained by a large section of the people about their loyalty founded largely on their past association with the demand for Pakistan and the unfortunate activities of some of them”.

People need to note the emphasis on ‘some of them’ to appreciate the Sardar Patel’s realistic assessment of the situation compared to Nehru’s ‘feel good’ element sans any practical value. It is this dichotomy of thought that persists today in the battle between the ‘pseudo-secularism’ practiced by the Congress and the genuine secularism advocated by the BJP.


Give A Dog A Bad Name And Then Hang Him !


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During a crucial Cabinet meeting to discuss the liberation of Hyderabad by the Army from the tyranny of the Razakkars, Nehru had shouted at Patel and said. “You are a complete communalist and I’ll never be a party to your suggestions and proposals. A shocked Patel had collected his papers from the table and slowly walked out of the Cabinet room. That was the last time he attended a Cabinet meeting and never spoke to Nehru again.

In fact Patel’s opinion about the RSS was clear. He had written that “there can be no doubt that the RSS did service to the Hindu society. In the areas where there was the need for help and organization, the young men of the RSS protected women and children and strove much for their sake. No person of understanding could have a word of objection regarding that. I am thoroughly convinced that the RSS men carry on their patriotic endeavour only by joining the Congress and not by keeping separate or by opposing. “

After the ban was removed on 12 July 1949, Patel had written to Guru Golwalkar and made a telling remark: ‘Only the people near me know as to how happy I was when the ban on Sangh was lifted. I wish you all the best.’

In spite of all this direct evidence, the Congress did not end at this. In 1966, Indira Gandhi appointed the Justice J L Kapur Commission which examined over 100 witnesses and submitted its report in 1969. The Kapur Commission report said “the RSS as such were not responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, meaning thereby that one could not name the organisation as such as being responsible for that most diabolical crime, the murder of the apostle of peace. It has not been proved that they (the accused) were members of the RSS.”

In his speeches, after the ban was lifted, Guru Golwalkar had endeared himself to many people outside the Sangh ranks with his magnanimity and moderation. ‘Let us close this chapter of the ban on the Sangh,’ he told Swayamsevaks and RSS sympathisers. ‘Do not let your minds be overcome with bitterness for those who, you feel, have done injustice to you. If the teeth were to bite the tongue do we pull out the teeth? Even those who have done injustice to us are our own people. So we must forget and forgive”. That was the large heartedness of the RSS.

Furthermore, after the ban was lifted, Golwalkar embarked on an all-India tour in August 1949, touring the country extensively for six months. Wherever he went, he received a tumultuous welcome. The massive ovation he got in Delhi on 23 August 1949 attracted international attention. BBC had reported: ‘Golwalkar is a shining star that has arisen on the Indian firmament. The only other Indian who can draw such huge crowds is Prime Minister Nehru.’ Nehru insistence on banning the RSS was probably because he saw a potential political threat in the RSS to him.

By Anil Dhir 


Could Patel have changed the course of Modern India?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. For one, the Kashmir problem would be non-existent today. And in all probability, India’s humiliating defeat at the hands of China in 1962 would have been averted. There were certain key decision points with regard to Kashmir in the period immediately after independence which had a long term impact on this imbroglio. In the first, Patel’s decisive approach compared to Nehru’s dilly-dallying, was instrumental in forcing a timely military intervention in Kashmir, thus preventing the state from being lost to India forever. Prem Shankar Jha in his book Kashmir 1947, Rival Versions of History cites Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw (then a colonel) who was privy to the happenings at that time:

“As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God Almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, ‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away’. He (Nehru) said, ‘Of course, I want Kashmir’. Then he (Patel) said ‘Please give your orders’. And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, ‘You have got your orders’.

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In the second instance, in contrast to Nehru’s gullible Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai mantra, Patel was wary of Chinese intentions and rightly so. Ramachandra Guhain his book India After Gandhi writes “Patel warned Nehru:“Recent and bitter history also tells us that communism is no shield against imperialism and that the communists are as good or as bad as the imperialists or any other. Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include important parts of Assam…” Patel urged Nehru to be ‘alive to the new danger’ from China, and to make India ‘defensively strong’. He then outlined a series of steps to enhance security. He thought that in view of the ‘rebuff’ over Tibet, India should no longer advocate China’s case for entry into the UN. Finally he argued that the latest developments should prompt a fresh reconsideration of our relationship with China, Russia, America, Britain …Patel seemed here to be hinting that India should reconsider its policy of non-alignment in favor of an alliance with the West.”

If only Nehru heeded to Patel’s advices, this country would have been stronger and empowered than it is today.

The last Independence Day message which Sardar Patel delivered was on August 15, 1950. His eloquent words deserve to be taught and read in every school and college. They come from the deep anguish in his heart, and require to be quoted in full length: “Certain tendencies and developments in our administrative and public affairs fill me with some disquiet and sadness of heart. The country can realize the feelings of one who has spent the major part of his public life in witnessing epics of sacrifice and selfless endeavour and feats of discipline and unity and who now finds enacted before him scenes which mock at the past.

“Our public life seems to be degenerated into a fen of stagnant waters; our conscience is troubled with doubts and despair about the possibilities of improvement. We do not seem to be profiting either from history or experience. We appear helplessly to be watching the sickle of time taking away, the rich corn, leaving behind the bare and withered stalks.

“Yet the tasks that confront us are as complex and taxing as ever. They demand the best in us while we face them with indifferent resources. We seem to devote too much time to things that hardly matter and too little to those that count. We talk, while the paramount need is that of action. We are critical of other people’s exertions, but lack the will to contribute our own. We are trying to overtake others by giant strides while we have hardly learnt to walk…

“On this, the third milestone of our career as a free country. I hope my countrymen will forgive me, if I have tried to turn their searchlight inwards. In my life, I have now reached a stage when time is of the essence. Age has not diminished the passion which I bear to see my country great and to ensure that the foundations of our freedom are well and securely laid. Bodily infirmity has not dimmed my ardour to exert my utmost for the peace, prosperity and advancement of the Motherland. But ‘the bird of time has a little way to fly, and lo! it is on the wing’.

“With all the sincerity and earnestness at my command and claiming the privilege of age, I, therefore, appeal to my fellow countrymen on this solemn and auspicious day to reflect on what they see in and around themselves and with the strength and faith that comes from self-introspection, sustain the hope and confidence which an old servant of theirs still has in the future of our country.”

The India of today is certainly not the India of Sardar Patel’s dreams. After sixty seven years of independence, the picture that emerges is that of a nation potentially great but in a state of moral decay. We suffer from a fatty degeneration of conscience and an unchecked dissolution of values. We have no sense of shame or shock that under a first-class Constitution we run a third-class democracy. The country with the noblest cultural heritage has become the most criminalized and the most violent democracy on earth.

What a transformation could be effected if we relearn the values which Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stood for! The environment will change beyond recognition when we install dharma on the throne again. The country is crying aloud for moral leadership, fearless and forthright, which will tell the people—as Sardar Patel did—what does not flatter them and what they do not want to hear.

By Nilabh Krishna

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