During his lifetime, Sardar Patel’s son, Dahyabhai Patel, got a job in an Indian industrial house.
Patel heard about it and got furious. He asked his son how he dared to use his name to get a job. He never saw his son’s face again until he died.
“Sardar Patel was furious that his son had landed a job on the basis of his pedigree rather than his ability. He publicly disassociated himself from Dahyabhai. It was Patel, a pragmatist who was rooted in an indigenous ethic of morality, ”explains scholar Neerja Singh, an expert on Patel.
On the anniversary of the birth of Sardar Patel, who was named National Unity Day by Narendra Modi’s government, Interior Minister Amit Shah paid tribute to the late leader in Kevadia in the Gujarat, where the tallest statue in the world, a 182-meter-high replica of Patel, standing.
“Today’s National Unity Day is a day of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav… After independence, in leaving, the British conspired to divide us into several pieces. Patel foiled this conspiracy and decided to make Akhand Bharat, ”Interior Minister Amit Shah told Kevadia in Gujarat, with the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the background,“ Sardar Patel gave a message to the world that no one can destroy the unity and integrity of India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also paid tribute to India’s First Deputy Prime Minister on his birthday: “Sardar Patel has always wanted India to be capable, inclusive, sensitive, alert, humble and developed. He has always given priority to the national interest.
Patel, indeed, has been credited with integrating over 500 princely states into independent India, using his pragmatism and courage, fueled by a commitment to India, to the hilt.
But historians say there is more to Sardar Patel than that.
“Patel was perfectly suited to the task of integrating 562 princely states with independent India, for he possessed a unique blend of authority, steadfastness and courage, coupled with the wisdom of treating people with courtesy,” historian and deputy director of the Nehru Memorial. Ravi K Mishra Museum and Library told Outlook. “Even before that, he had several contributions to make. He started with the Kheda Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi and the culmination of his activity in colonial India was the Bardoli Satyagraha, where he implemented the Gandhian principles of nonviolence with complete firmness and forced the state colonial to fold. He was a true Gandhian nationalist. He chaired the Karachi Congress which debated fundamental rights for the first time. By the 1930s he had become the main organizer of the Indian National Congress. In 1937 he led the elections and Congress won spectacular victories.
Yet the organizer and chief electoral officer stood out for his ethics, something he took from his mentor Gandhi.
“In 1945-46, an industrialist procrastinated to finance the congressional election campaign. He wanted some of his interests to be taken care of. Sardar Patel told him point blank: take your money; Patel can never be bought, ”recalls Neerja Singh.
Amit Shah told Kevadia that there had been attempts to forget about Sardar Patel and not give him back his due. “The situation has changed. He received Bharat Ratna and the tallest statue in the world is before us to see, ”he said.
The fact that Patel has not received his due from congressional governments is a theme repeatedly deployed by the BJP to attack the party.
“Three factors are crucial in understanding the BJP’s focus on Sardar Patel. First, he could challenge Nehru’s hold on the masses. To counter Nehru, he was thrown. He had an unblemished record equal to Nehru; it signified Indian pragmatism and inclusion, ”Neerja Singh told Outlook. “They think Patel was gentle with RSS because he said these are committed people who have gone in the wrong direction and should be brought to Congress.”
She also agrees that Congress could have done much more to claim the legacy of its imposing leader.
“The Devkant Barua culture of sycophancy – the claim that Indira is India – has taken a toll,” she told Outlook. “That aside, congressional leaders like DP Mishra and Ravi Shankar Shukla, who later claimed Patel’s legacy, were conservative and at odds with Nehru’s worldview. This gradually caused Patel’s legacy to be forgotten in Congress. The void was filled by the BJP, which rushed to claim Patel, an icon of the struggle for freedom.
This reporter also noticed, year after year, as he passed the congressional office in Delhi, that Indira Gandhi, whose death anniversary coincides with the anniversary of Patel’s birth, eclipsed Patel in numbers and size of signs affixed near ACEC headquarters.
Neerja Singh considered Nehru and Patel as equals at this time. However, she says Nehru and Maulana Azad had a certain degree of “intellectual arrogance” and did not fully understand the pragmatic meaning of Patel’s policy. “Nehru and Patel worked together but had some ambivalence towards each other,” Singh explains. “Even on his deathbed, Patel wrote to Nehru warning him that China would become India’s main enemy.”
Singh recalls an interesting anecdote from a conversation between Patel and Mahadev Desai.
One day when Desai started discussing Swami Vivekananda and Patel innocently asked him who that person was, a stunned Desai told him about Vivekananda and Patel then read Vivekananda’s writings for a week.
Yet behind this humble terror lie nerves of steel.
Chandmal Sharma, a retired philosophy professor in Jaipur, recalled an episode he covered as a young journalist in Jodhpur state when the state was to join India. Patel and VP Menon went to meet Hanwant Singh, the king of Jodhpur, who had agreed to sign the instrument of accession. But in a last-minute fit of rage after losing his kingdom, Hanwant Singh drew a gun, forcing Vice President Menon to hide behind a sofa. Patel, Chandmal Sharma will be remembered decades back, was stable and said to the king, “Give this toy to the children of your palace to play and sign the Instrument of Membership.” Sharma would say the king kept the gun away and burst into tears, but then signed the document and the state of Jodhpur became part of India.
Ravi K Mishra sums up: “Sardar Patel was the architect of united India.