Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Contributions To Modern India Essay
Sardar Vallabhai Patel (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950).
Once in a generation, there comes an intellectual leader and visionary, who aims for the skies, feet firmly on ground, mind made of diamond and fist made of iron, with sheer dedication and focus which might put Eagles also to shame.
One such visionary was Sardar Patel. Unfortunately, India has forgotten this gem because the young generation of India only know him as a freedom fighter and an associate of Gandhi-Nehru.
Let me take this opportunity to share some facts about Sardar Patel and what makes him so special. I will share 5 facts of Patel which I hope will give an overall picture of his capabilities including his political, intellectual, military and non-political sides:
-Political popularity among Congressmen
-Role in political integration of India
-Intellectual skills applied to military
-Role in Constitution
-Role in White Revolution
There are many reasons why Patel has become a silent icon. One of the main reasons is that he was a man of action for whom work was primary while photo shoots & public appearances were secondary. To give a simple analogy, we get mesmerized during the inauguration function of a building, we often forget to give due credit to the engineer behind the construction and instead end up admiring the charismatic chief guest who cuts the ribbon.
If India is such a well built, complex building, then one can safely assume that Sardar Patel is the chief engineer.
Apart from being the chief engineer, he was also the chief visionary who had won the minds of every Congress worker by his practical approach towards solving problems and envisioning a future which was not too far fetched and which seemed to be accomplishable. In 1946, there was an election for the post of Congress president (It was decided that the elected Congress president would become the first PM of independent India). Such was the leadership trait of Patel, he won 13 out of 16 votes (Kripalani got 3, Nehru got 0). Kripalini stepped out due to personal reasons and the contenders were only Patel & Nehru. Patel had 13 votes & Nehru had 0. However, Gandhi asked Patel to step down, thereby making Nehru the party president and hence the first PM of independent India.
It is dramatized in this short clip which is a part of the movie “Sardar”:
It was one of the most tragic decisions ever in the history of modern India and was condemned even by the most respected Congress leaders. For example, eminent Congressman C. Rajagopalachari had said: “Undoubtedly it would have been better if Nehru had been asked to be the Foreign Minister and Patel made the Prime Minister.”
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (Ex Congress President), in his autobiography which was published posthumously in 1959 wrote: “It was a mistake on my part that I did not support Sardar Patel. We differed on many issues but I am convinced that if he had succeeded me as Congress President he would have seen that the Cabinet Mission Plan was successfully implemented. He would have never committed the mistake of Jawaharlal which gave Mr. Jinnah an opportunity of sabotaging the Plan. I can never forgive myself when I think that if I had not committed these mistakes, perhaps the history of the last ten years would have been different”
Excerpt from “India After Gandhi”
Role in political integration of India:
1947. One man. A fragmented land mass of 565 princely states.
Just to give an idea of the fragmentation, here is the 1947 map of India depicting the chaos:
Click to enlarge
- Click to enlarge
This arduous task of swiftly uniting all the princely states would not have been possible if not for Patel who personally met each prince for negotiations and convinced them to accede to India. But as one would expect, some of the filthy rich, power hungry princes posed some of the greatest hurdles to Patel who in turn made such hurdles and such princes appear as paper dolls, and reinforced his title of being the Iron man of India.
This clip from the movide “Sardar” dramatizes one of the challenging situation of Hyderabad which was faced by Sardar with a calm mind & carried out with utmost ease:
Here is a rare video news reel clip from 1948 showing Sardar Patel meeting Indian Princes who officially acceded to India:
-Intellectual skills applied to military:
During his tenure of being the home minister, Patel envisioned some of the greatest policies to keep India secure and develop it overall, which unfortunately was not considered seriously by Nehru. For example, here is a letter written by Patel to Nehru warning him about the threat to India from China, which was unfortunately ignored by Nehru and had to pay a heavy price for it during 1962 war.
The 1950 letter:
Excerpt from “Indian Summer”
-Role in Constitution:
A fact which is not known to many is about his role in framing the Constitution of India. As the textbooks say, Dr.Ambedkar was definitely the architect and official chairman of the drafting committee of Indian Constitution. But the real architect was Sardar Patel.
Patel had played a dominant and decisive role in the Constituent Assembly from day one and was the motivator for the team. It was Patel who had recommended Ambedkar to be appointed for the post and ensured that he completed his tenure despite Nehru’s wish to drop him at one point (as said by Dr Chopra). He was passionate, focussed and never hesitated to take a strong stand against Nehru on issues like fundamental rights, electorate, status of Kashmir etc. It would come as a surprise to many that it was Patel who had presented recommendations on political safeguards for minorities (as mentioned by Dr Chopra as well as Ramachandra Guha in their respective works).
Patel had dominated the assembly and his ideas being appreciated and imbibed to such an extent that Dr Chopra goes on to say: “It could be aptly called the Patel Constitution” (Dr Chopra was the editor of “Collected works of Patel”)
More about it here:
-His role in white revolution:
Apart from the usual politics, he was actively involved in nation building in several different ways. For example, the idea of co-operatives for milk industry was the brainchild of Patel which led to white revolution (headed by Dr. Kurien of Amul). Patel was instrumental in motivating farmers to join the movement so as to break the monopoly enjoyed by private players and place the power among hands of the farmers/producers.
This video clip from a movie depicts Sardar Patel’s role in motivating farmers into forming milk cooperatives:
“Your goodness is impediment in your way. So let your eyes be red with anger and try to fight injustice with an iron hand.”
– Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, while addressing people in Bardoli, 12th March 1928.
India is a land of diverse communities. The diversity of this land has existed since time immemorial. Travellers from different parts of the world had set foot in India and left their mark on its land. The exchange of culture and tradition can be accounted for India’s rich diversity. Many kings and emperors had invaded this land and left their imprints on the people. In the pre-independence era, India did not exist as a country like it is now. It was just a congregation of different states, each with their own rulers, internal affairs and indigenous people. The independent princely states had their own rules and code for law and order. When Gandhi Ji started the freedom movement and gradually, India was approaching to earn its independence, a major problem was faced by our freedom fighters. The problem was the integration of 500+ independent princely states into one nation as a whole. But this herculean task was handled swiftly by one person – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was born on 31st October, 1875, in Gujarat. He was a renowned barrister and statesman. Initially, he was not into politics or freedom struggle. His qualities of leadership and diplomacy were observed by his friends who urged him to contest elections in 1917. So, upon strong urging by his friends, he contested the elections and was elected as the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad in 1917. He was impressed by Gandhi Ji’s concept of ‘Swaraj’ and soon, he began to develop a keen interest on it. He started urging people ti rise and fight for India’s freedom. He played an active role when Satyagraha was organised in Gujarat. He was also an active member of the Quit India Movement.
Sardar Patel had a strong vision to integrate the princely states and make India a united nation. As India neared Independence, Sardar Patel started showing his diplomatic skills. He was assigned the task of integrating India by Gandhi Ji. Sardar Patel had the herculean task of convincing independent states to shed off their defence, foreign affairs and communication to join hands in forming an independent, united nation called INDIA. He formulated an effective plan and started working with utmost dedication. He offered an ultimatum to all the 565 independent states to be a part of India. He clearly stated the benefits of being one nation. There were instances of some states showing reluctance but he was successful in persuading and convincing them too. He carried out the task of integrating Junagadh (in Gujarat) as a skilled statesman, without which, Junagadh would have been a part of Pakistan today. He also subdued the Nizam of Hyderabad tactfully. Finally, he succeeded in integrating the independent states into one India. For this reason, he is often compared to Otto von Bismark of Germany, who did the same thing in his country in the 1860s. Sardar Patel is also known as the “Bismark of India” and “Iron Man of India” (for following his policies and strategies with an iron hand).
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s vision of national integration and unity did not just end with the integration of 562 independent states. After independence, he became the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. He took charge of the States Department in July 1947 and continued to think for nation unity in future. He came up with the idea of a group of bureaucrats and professionals who would ensure nation unity with law and order in future. He can be credited to be the founder of the modern All India Services, a reason for which he is known as the “Patron Saint” among the civil servants today.
When it comes to national integration, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a name which cannot be ignored and clearly stands out high amidst the rest. For the cause of national unity, he had an action plan which he executed as a seasoned statesman. His leadership qualities and diplomatic skills empowered him to persuade independent states to stand united and save India from Balkanisation after the British crown started to collapse. Even after independence, he had taken a calculative decision of introducing the All India Services which would ensure that India always stays as an independent and united nation.
It is because of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that we can be proud of being the citizens of such a diverse and culture-rich country. Picture the situation today if there was no one called Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and all the 562 states were still independent today. How fragmented and powerless each state would have been, often prone to wars and invasion even now?
We Indians need to be proud of leaders like Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel. Such leaders are wanted even today – leaders who can lead with a vision which can actually be converted into reality. It is indeed a praiseworthy step by the Government of India that it has urged the citizens to commemorate and celebrate Sarder Patel’s birthday as “Rashtriya Ekta Diwas” (National Unity Day), for Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel was a man who not only integrated and united the nation, but also secured solidarity of the nation without a civil war.
© Barnadhya Rwitam Sharma