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”
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:
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:
-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: