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Vallabhbhai Patel: The Best PM India Never Had.

Once the British realised that retaining their control over the Indian subcontinent was impossible, they had plans to divide British India in a way that it could never emerge as a powerful polity. Between those evil plans and the future of India stood Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, single-handedly outwitting the British Raj.

An illustration of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Unifier-in-Chief of India

Illustration by Team Geostrata

Back in 1857, a small group of people participated in the First War of Independence from Gujarat. Jhaverbhai Patel, Sardar’s father, was one of them. Patriotism was something that Vallabhbhai inherited when he was born at Nadiad in 1875.

At 24, Vallabhbhai passed the District Pleaders’ Exam and became a lawyer. He started his practice at Godhra and eventually shifted to Borsad in 1902.

In 1905, Vallabhbhai got an opportunity to pursue further education in England. The offer letter was addressed as “V. Patel”. His elder brother, Vithalbhai Patel wished to enrol in the 36-month course at the Middle Temple Inn in London.

Vallabhbhai helped Vithalbhai with the money he had saved for his own course and sent his elder brother to join the course in London. Vithalbhai completed the 36-month course in 30 months, topping his class, something which the younger “V. Patel” repeated later.

At 34, Vallabhbhai lost his wife Jhaverba to cancer, which left him devastated. At 35, he finally got the chance to enrol at the Middle Temple Inn. He completed his course in just about 2 years and topped the batch.

At 38, he returned to India to practice law. He was offered the position of a judge by the British which he declined to start his own practice, eventually becoming the highest paid lawyer in Ahmedabad.

At 40, he became a member of Gujarat Sabha, which later became Gujarat Provincial Congress Committee in 1919. At 42, he became the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad and was tasked with one of the toughest things back in those days.

Ahmedabad was under a severe plague in 1917 and Vallabhbhai was the one who mounted a massive relief operation with considerable risk to his own life. As the Secretary of Gujarat Sabha, he fought against forced servitude by Indians to Europeans (veth system) and got it abolished in 1917.

It was also in 1917 at the age of 42 that he had his first direct contact with Mahatma Gandhi.

At 44, he led the Kheda Satyagraha successfully against the British. His daughter, Maniba switched to khadi before him and started working regularly at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. At 45, Vallabhbhai won all open seats in the Ahmedabad Municipal elections.

He was also instrumental in collecting one million rupees for the Tilak Swaraj Fund. He got 3 lakh people to enrol as members of Gujarat Congress and established Gujarat Vidyapith with Mahatma Gandhi.

At 46, he allowed Maniba to donate all her wealthy possessions to deposit for the cause of freedom while switching to Khadi himself. When he was 47, Vithalbhai left the Congress against Gandhi’s decision of unilaterally calling off the Non-Cooperation Movement and co-founded Swaraj Party along with CR Das and Motilal Nehru.

Vallabhbhai had a chance to join the Swaraj Party but he chose to stay true to his values with Congress, working for the underprivileged and not getting politically ambitious.

At 48, he successfully led the Borsad and the Nagpur Satyagraha. In 1924 at the age of 49, he became the President of Ahmedabad Municipality and notably helped Ahmedabad emerge from the devastating floods of 1927, with all the experience he had from the 1917 plague.

In 1928, Vallabhbhai became “Sardar”, a title bestowed to him by women of Bardoli as an honor to facilitate him for successfully leading the Bardoli Satyagraha. Vallabhbhai became Sardar at 53.

When Mahatma Gandhi launched the Dandi March from Sabarmati Ashram in 1930, at the age of 55, Sardar was appointed the Grand Commander of the Movement.

He was arrested and imprisoned at the Sabarmati Jail but nothing could stop him from pursuing his ambition of freedom.

In 1931, after three different stints of imprisonment at Ahmedabad, Bombay and Pune, Sardar was released and went on to become the All India Congress President at the Karachi Session.

The Government of India Act 1935 changed the political dynamics of the subcontinent. The British had agreed to hold elections to the Central Legislative Assembly and the Provincial assemblies. Sardar became the Chairman of Congress Parliamentary Board and also its main fund-raiser.

Sardar was the man who led Congress to overwhelming victory in 7 out of 11 provinces. In 1938, at the age of 63, Sardar organised the Haripura Congress Session on a grand scale, despite having personal differences with the President of the session, i.e. Subhash Chandra Bose. Nothing was more important for him than the cause of freedom.

As the Second World War hit the continent of Europe, the Viceroy of British India, Lord Linlithgow announced that British India would help the cause of the British Empire.

Congress, despite holding a majority in 7 out of 11 provinces, was not consulted. Congress decided to resign from the ministries as a mark of protest. However, Sardar had warned against this politically unwise move because it would only strengthen the hands of Muslim League, which by that time had adopted the resolution to constitute Pakistan as a separate country.

Sardar’s warning did come to reality as Congress was politically wiped out during the Second World War and Jinnah’s Muslim League was instrumental in garnering British support for the creation of Pakistan.

Once the Second World War was over, the British started releasing the leaders of Congress who were imprisoned following the 1942 “Quit India Movement” because they wanted to politically revamp the structures of British control over the subcontinent.

It was decided that another round of elections were to be held in 1946 to determine the power of Congress and the Muslim League.

At the age of 71, Sardar Patel ran the entire electoral campaign of Indian National Congress in 1946 elections. The Cabinet Mission of 1946 proposed two plans, i.e. the 16th May and the 16th June plan.

Sardar was the first person to really understand the game that the British were playing. Congress unilaterally rejected the offers, paving the way for the Muslim League to form the Interim Government.

Sardar single-handedly convinced the Congress to accept the 16th May proposal and thwarted the ambitions of the Muslim League to form the Interim Government. Sardar became the Home Minister and the Minister for Information & Broadcasting under the Interim Government formed between Congress and the Muslim League.

Working quietly on the sidelines with one of India’s foremost bureaucrats of those days, VP Menon, Sardar fairly imagined what a partition would look like.

He kept making sure that the ill designed game that the British and the Muslim League was playing did not harm the interests of India. It was Sardar who understood that instead of resisting the plan for partition, his focus should be on making sure that limited territory is lost to Pakistan and maximum territory of the princely states is incorporated into India.

This is exactly what happened because out of the 562 princely states, 548 of them joined the Indian union. On a fundamental basis, India lost around 30% of its territory to Pakistan but ended up gaining 40% of the territory (incorporation of the princely states).

At the time of independence, being the stalwart that he was, Sardar managed the affairs of the Congress party, dealt with the Muslim League and the British and stabilised the law and order of the country while handling the communal and refugee crisis as the first Home Minister.

When the matter of settling the assets with Pakistan on Independence came to the forefront, it was Deputy Prime Minister Sardar who negotiated with Pakistan. All this at a time when his health was faltering, he still managed to top all of this with the integration of 548 princely states to build the greatest territorial empire to have existed on the Indian subcontinent.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: India's Unifier-in-Chief

Patel possessed the organising ability of Bismarck, the astute statesmanship of Chanakya, and the single-minded devotion to the cause of national unity of Abraham Lincoln” - VV Giri, ex-President of India.

“The problem of princely states is so difficult that only you can solve it” - Gandhi to Sardar.

“Common talk among the members of the Indian Civil Service post-Independence used to be : If the dead body of the Sardar were stuffed and placed on a chair, HE COULD STILL RULE” - Balraj Krishna.

The Sardar always reminded me of the pictures of the Roman emperors in history books. There was something rock-like in his appearance and demeanour … the Sardar’s reading of the pulse of India was almost uncanny in its accuracy” - Roy Bucher.

You saw his face. It grew year by year in power and determination” - Acharya Kriplani.




4 comentarios

Yash Singh
Yash Singh
31 oct 2023

Leader amongst the leaders 💐 A great leader with vision.

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Ayush Shukla
Ayush Shukla
31 oct 2023

Greatest amongst the greatest.

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Swati Kakarwad
Swati Kakarwad
31 oct 2023

A Visionary who has left an indelible mark on Indian politics.

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Ayushi Chaudhary
Ayushi Chaudhary
31 oct 2023

visionary leader.

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