-Dr Sanjeev Kumar Tiwari-
On May 13, 1959, the first president of India Dr Rajendra Prasad wrote in his diary, “There is today an India to think and talk about largely due to Sardar Patel’s statesmanship and firm administration… Yet we opt to ignore him.” Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played the architect in integrating the 565 princely states into the Indian Union, preserved the administrative network and supervised making of world’s most detailed constitution in a record period. However, the architect of modern state of India was grossly ignored following his death on December 15, 1950.
In 1946 organisational elections, the Congress party had recommended the name of Sardar Patel for AICC with a majority. Of the 15 provincial Congress Committees, 12 preferred Sardar over Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the Congress President and
subsequently the first Prime Minister of Independent India. But Sardar Patel, a staunch follower and obedient
lieutenant of Mahatma Gandhi, willingly accepted the wishes of his leader and sacrificed not only the
presidentship of Congress but also the post of interim Prime Minister and that of the first Prime Minister of Independent India.
However these sacrifices and his unparalleled
contribution in strengthening the Congress Party, the national movement and building of united and strong India was very easily
forgotten by the same party. Till 64 years after his death, this unsung leader of modern India was not given his due by the successive Congress Governments.
After demise of Sardar Patel there were differences within Congress party on celebrating his birth
anniversary. The dominant and power elite within the party succeeded in projecting him as the leader of anti development stream. He was also portrayed as conservative, status-quo orientated and a staunch supporter of Hindus’ cause. The successive Congress Governments at the Centre left no stone unturned to erase the memory of this great hero from the minds and ideas of Indians.
Neglecting Sardar Legacy
The greatest proof of neglect of Sardar’s legacy was the deliberate avoidance of commemorating events related to his life and times, including the celebration of his centenary in the year in 1975. No commemorative event matching the momentous
occasion was held. No government schemes on his name were launched as his birth centenary passed
uncelebrated. The year of 1975, which would have been a remarkable remembrance year commemorating centenary of Sardar, the unifier of India and protector and facilitator of individual’s rights and liberty as the chairman of Advisory Committee
of Constituent Assembly, is
unfortunately today remembered for the imposition of Emergency, which saw suspension of these rights.
In June 1975 country was pushed into the darkness of Emergency where the democratic values and liberal
principles were greatly undermined. During the birth centenary year of Sardar, no Congress leader could ask the simple but pertinent question to the leadership, “Why was country not giving the due to Sardar and
remembering him in the auspicious year?” It speaks volumes about the pusillanimous state of the Congress leaders who allowed the contribution and sacrifices of the unifier and
architect of the Congress party to be hidden behind the grand statues of the Gandhi-Nehru family! No leader
questioned the control of a dynasty over the party and the government!
As mentioned earlier, efforts were made to portray him as a Hindu
communal leader which was never countered and contested by the Congress party and the successive Congress Governments. He was also coloured as anti-Muslim, which he was not. Definitely he hated the Muslim League and Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah since they spread hatred, communal
tension and demanded Partition of the country.
There were conspiracies within Congress party and some of the
leaders had complained to Mahatma Gandhi regarding alleged bias Sardar exercised in dealing with Hindu-Muslim issues as Home Minister but Gandhi categorically stated that, “I know the Sardar… His method of approach to the Hindu-Muslim question as also to
several other questions is different from mine and Pandit Nehru’s. But it is
travesty of truth to describe it as
anti-Muslim. The Sardar’s heart is expansive enough to accommodate all.”
There were differences between Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru on a number of issues including Kashmir, Tibet, China etc. But once accepted as the leader Sardar neither questioned Nehru’s leadership nor challenged it despite the fact that almost the entire party was with Patel at that point of time. He willingly accepted and clearly warned the others to follow the leader. No doubt that Nehru was more
popular among the masses but
acceptance of Sardar was clearly greater within the Congress
organisation, workers and leaders, which was enough to unsettle and challenge Nehru’s leadership.
Despite the coordination and
cooperation provided to Nehru by Sardar in helping him to write tryst with destiny of independent India, Nehru could not give the due to his sincere colleague even after Patel’s death. His successors from the dynasty tried to undo the contribution of Sardar by attempting to push him out of
The ungratefulness of the entire Congress party in general and Gandhi-Nehru family in particular is testified by the fact that it took 41 years for the government to confer the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, on the Iron Man of India. It was as late as 1991 that a government led by non Gandhi-Nehru family member under P V Narasimha Rao conferred the award posthumously on Sardar.
It was only in 2014 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary as the National Unity Day and the entire country started to remember Sardar for his contribution to the whole of India. The Congress, finding itself
cornered on the matter, now is raising hue and cry that their legacy is being appropriated by the Sangh Parivar. The question is “Why did they allow Sardar to be forgotten? Why are his contributions not part of the academic curriculum?” The questions are many.
It’s however fortunate that the
country has finally come to
acknowledge the contributions of Sardar and is ready to undo the wrongs of Congress Governments.
(The writer is Associate Professor at Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi)
Rebuilding Somanath Temple, Sardar’s Wish, Not Nehru’s
It is known to all that Nehru never wished to build Somnath Temple, nor specifically did he say that it was destroyed over and over again due to religious fanaticism. It was Sardar
Patel who was in favour of
construction of temple. The main force behind the construction of temple after death of Sardar Patel was KM Munshi.
Disheartened Maniben Patel
After the demise of Sardar Patel, Maniben Patel, Sardar Patel’s daughter picked up a book and a bag that belonged to him and went to meet Jawaharlal Nehru in Delhi. She handed them to Nehru, telling him that her father had instructed her that when she died she should give these items to Nehru and no one else. The bag contained Rs 35 Lakh that belonged to the Congress Party and the book was the party’s book of accounts. Nehru took them and thanked her. Maniben waited expectantly, hoping he would say something more, but he did not, so she got up and left.
She had expected Nehru to say to her. ‘I thought he might ask me how I would manage now, or atleast ask if there was anything he could do to help me. But he never asked.’ she explained. She was extremely disheartened and in a way the incident revealed the strain in the Nehru-Sardar Patel relationship. It was quite distressing to see that neither Nehru nor any of the other national leaders of the Congress ever bothered to find out what happened to Maniben after her father died.
(Source : I Too Had a Dream, pp37-39)
Efforts made not to allow People to Attend Sardar’s Funeral
“We were receiving messages from Delhi from time to time and we were particularly distressed to learn that efforts were being made not to allow people from coming to Bombay in order to be present at Sardar’s funeral. We were told that Ministers were being discouraged from coming and that the Governors who had made enquiries had been told to stick to their posts. Apparently this was in compliance with Pandit Nehru’s exhortation in his speech in Parliament which was couched in the following words:
I can say little more on this occasion. My colleague, Mr. Rajagopalachari and I are going almost immediately, to pay our last tribute and homage to him in Bombay. I understand that the President has also decided to go to Bombay immediately, and the Speaker, Sir, went early this morning. I have no doubt that many of my colleagues and hon'ble members of this House occasion to pay this last tribute, but I feel that he, magnificent worker that he was, would not have liked us to leave our work and just go in large numbers to Bombay at this moment. So I have asked my colleagues to stay here, except for Mr. Rajagopalachari, who was perhaps amongst all of us here the oldest of Sardar Patel’s colleagues and comrades.” (Source : V. Shankar, My Reminiscenes of Sardar Patel Vol. 2, Pp 149)