Essay on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Know About the ‘Iron Man of India’
October 31, 2017
“We salute Sardar Patel on his Jayanti. His momentous service and monumental contribution to India can never be forgotten”. It is with these words that Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi flagged off a run to commemorate the 142nd birth anniversary of the Iron Man of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Sardar (chief) was how he was addressed and with good reason. The tremendous contributions made by Patel to India’s freedom struggle and the resolute leadership displayed by him while our great nation was still in its early years of independence are indeed praiseworthy and memorable.
Iron Man of India
Born to a farmer in Gujarat (in the year 1875), Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, displayed a resolute determination from an early age. Undaunted by his humble beginnings and the disheartening condition of the country under British colonial rule, Patel went on to study in England and became a barrister. Coming back home, Patel rose to eminence as one of the best barristers of Ahmedabad city. The idea of servitude, however, was not a pleasant one and his ideological clashes with the British continued to grow. He soon threw himself heart and soul into the national freedom movement. He rose to become one of the most influential leaders of the Indian National Congress and came to be regarded as a very close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Though he remained very active in organizing mass civil disobedience protests in his home state, Gujarat, Patel did not lose sight of the nation as a whole.
Integration of Princely States
By the time Indian independence from the British Raj became imminent, there were over 550 princely states. These states were varied in size and might. The royal families were, in most cases, reluctant to join the Indian union. Integration of these princely states became a matter of prime importance and this responsibility was handed to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Along with V. P. Menon, another exceptional administrator, Patel was responsible for bringing together these states and building up the Indian Republic. His strong determined approach, his frank communication, and his excellent negotiation skills managed to give shape to the country.
Sardar Patel was not a man to mince words. He extended every possible concession for the royal families but did not hold back on the possibility of military action in case the states did not join India. Not only did he manage to secure the accession of these states but also oversaw the transformation of administration in a phased way. This earned his the moniker “Unifier of India”.
Patel worked extensively with the civil servants and bureaucrats to establish unified nationwide systems across the country. He is also fondly referred to as the “patron saint” of our civil services for this reason but it is the common man who enjoys the benefits of these services that Patel managed to establish in India.
First Home Minister
As the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of the country, Sardar Patel steered the country through turbulent times. For a leader who passionately led India through (the latter part of) its freedom struggle, the violent partition and consequent bloodbath would have been heart wrenching and disappointing. Patel did not let the grief overshadow his sense of responsibility. He set up large scale relief camps and refugee shelters across northern India and set about restoring peace and stability in the country. The newly inaugurated Sardar Sarovar dam is but a translation of this great man’s vision, his commitment to regional prosperity and national upliftment.
In the years following India’s independence, Sardar Patel played a very important role in shaping national policies. His success was at times limited due to the imposition of contrary ideas by Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, and others, but the wisdom of his ideals and his policies remain at the very foundation of India’s growth.
A Legacy of Unity
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel leaves behind a rich legacy of unity and integrity. His toils and efforts which managed to stitch together the numerous small and often conflicting princely states into the colourful tapestry that makes up Indian society, have been recognized by the Government of India and since 2014 his birth anniversary, 31 October, is commemorated as National Unity Day (Rashtriya Ekta Diwas). This year, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all universities and higher education institutions in the country to celebrate Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s birth anniversary in the hope that the youth of the country shall imbibe the same sense of national pride and unity as demonstrated by Sardar Patel.
Read Biography of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
“Nobody likes the division of India and my heart is heavy. But the choice is between one division and many divisions. We must face facts. We cannot give way to emotionalism and sentimentality. We have 75 to 80 percent of India, which we can make strong with our own genius. The (Muslim) league can develop the rest of the country” – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on Partition.
Such a practical, compassionate and down-to-earth opinion on a very sensitive subject like Partition! But what Patel, Gandhi and any other leader did not anticipate is the scale of the riots that eventually took place due to partition. The character and leadership of a responsible statesman is tested during tough times and handling the crisis of Partition of India, was as tough as it could get.
Fortunately, India was in the hands of the son of its soil – Sardar Vallabhai Patel, who played an important role in both getting Independence and securing independence.
Perhaps the younger generation doesn’t understand what it takes to fight and negotiate with a powerful entity. While Gandhi appealed to the conscience of the Britishers through his Satyagraha and Non-violence, Vallabhbhai Patel focused on creating and nurturing a powerful & organized resistance, conforming to the non-violent principles articulated by Gandhi and united the masses of various castes, religions, etc.
Be it organizing the mass agitation of the people of Gujarat and encouraging them not to pay any taxes to the British Government as a protest against hiking of taxes during famine, or be it organizing the masses to fight for the right to hoist the Indian flag at public ceremonies during the British rule. Guess what happened? In both the cases, British Government called him for negotiations, and accepted his demand!
Of course, he was arrested for three years from 1942 to 1945 for being among the organizing forces of the Civil Disobedience/ Quit India movement. This movement was fierce and convinced the Britishers that they no longer enjoyed the popularity of the people they came to rule. Of course, the war and the subsequent weakening of British forces only made it worser.
Ultimately India did get Independence, but was torn into two pieces. But fortunately just two pieces – The 565 Princely states that were in the Indian territory could decide if they want to accede to India, Pakistan or be Independent. It could have been worse!
At this time, it seems Gandhi said to Patel, “The problem of the states is so difficult that you alone could solve it”. How right was he? It took Patel’s flamboyant diplomacy to convince almost all the states to fall in line. All the tricks in the book were used – Lobbying, Meeting the princes at social gatherings, calling them to Delhi for a dialogue, invoking their patriotism, making them understand that people want to have a united India, and yes – the threat to use force.
The master negotiator, who had earlier won accolades even from British officials for his style of diplomacy did not have much problems in getting the consent of almost all the rulers of the princely states. Almost all, because three big states were still out of the cohesion – Jammu & Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad.
While J&K was ‘personally’ handled by Nehru, the soldiers of Indian union occupied Junagadh without much problems. A plebiscite held in the region confirmed that more than 99% of the people wanted to accede to India. Perhaps only the King had a different opinion!
It took a full scale battle to bring Hyderabad province under the union. It seems Vallabhbhai Patel ordered forces to march into Hyderabad in his official capacity as the Deputy to the Prime Minister (and acting PM), when Nehru was on a tour to Europe. Fortunately for us, that was a timely tour!
Its easy to stall any negotiation by creating a I-win You-lose check mate. But it takes a real leader to instill the confidence even among opponents to achieve a Win-Win result. The difficult struggle for Independence created such leaders of character, caliber and dedication like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He was rightly referred to as the ‘Iron Man’ of India.
The Government of Gujarat is trying to build the tallest statue on earth – The Statue of Unity, which is actually a statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel as he was the person who united India. I wish them all the best in their endeavor.
Reference:Wikipedia article on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
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