THE GRAND ARCHITECT
The Hindustan Times, November 3, 2000
No one in modern India has achieved so much in so many directions in such a short time as Sardar Patel. He demonstrated in no uncertain terms that "things are revolutionised, not by creating revolutions on the streets but by causing practical solution of the existing problems".
His firm and fair approach to many complex issues of the day also showed how correct Lord Wavell was when he remarked: "India can be governed firmly or not at all."
Before departure from India, Lord Mountbatten wrote to Sardar Patel on June 19, 1948: "There is no doubt that by far the most important achievement of the present Government is the unification of the states into the Dominion of India. Had you failed in this, the results would have been disastrous. But since you succeeded, no one can see the disastrous consequences that you avoided. Nothing has added to the prestige of the present Government more than the brilliant policy you have followed with the states."
Nehru was certainly a great leader but in 'resolute practicality' he was nowhere near Sardar Patel. Hudson, the author of Great Divide, quotes Lord Mountbatten as saying that "I am glad Nehru has not been put in charge of the new states' department, which would have wrecked everything". Gandhiji also shared this view. He said: "The task of dealing with the princes was truly formidable, but I am convinced that the Sardar was the only person who could have coped with it."
Our country has no dearth of theoreticians. But it is woefully deficient in the art of execution. It does not understand that the great questions of the day are settled not by speeches and resolutions but by determined and diligent action. Ideas are important. But it is constructive work alone that can "inject meaning into the veins of history and civilisation".
Sardar Patel was certainly one of the greatest constructive geniuses the country has known. He has often been compared with Chancellor Bismarck who effected German unification in the late 19th century. But Patel's achievements regarding the integration of states were far more remarkable.
Bismarck wove only about a dozen states into German fabric. Patel had to handle 561 states of a wide variety. While the former resorted to the policy of "blood and iron", the latter brought about a "bloodless revolution". Patel's amazing capacity to size up men and moments and to strike when the iron was hot without splattering blood around, caused about 800,000 square kilometres of land to be added to the Indian Union, besides a population of 86 million.
Patel first formulated a great design for a well-knit India and then proceeded to materialise it. He aroused the patriotic sentiments of the princes and reminded them: "We are at a momentous stage in the history of India. By a common endeavour, we can raise the country to a new greatness, while lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities."
While Sardar Patel provided an honourable alternative to all the princes, he made it clear to all concerned that he would not allow India's hard-earned freedom to be jeopardised by the numerous 'opt-out plans' of the princely states. He scotched Bhopal's game of grouping the states and acquiring a separate dominion status. He dealt firmly with Junagadh and called the bluff of the Nizam of Hyderabad and his advisors like Sir Monckton and Laik Ali.
When die-hard conservative members of the British Parliament like R.A. Butler and Churchill tried to browbeat India by espousing the cause of the Nizam, he firmly told them not to stand by the old world'. He made it clear: "It is only in goodwill spirit, and not on the malice and venom of Mr Churchill's tongue, that an enduring relationship of friendship can be built between India and Britain and other members of the "Commonwealth". He, thus, successfully prevented Hyderabad, which he described as an "ulcer in the abdomen of India" from becoming cancerous.
At the time of his death, the Manchester Guardian wrote: "Without Patel, Gandhi's idea would have less practical influence and Nehru's idealism less scope. He was not only the organiser of the fight for freedom but also the architect of the new State when the fight was over. The same man is seldom successful both as rebel and statesman. Sardar Patel was an exception."
Patel gave an honoured place to the Civil Services. He inspired them with a new zeal and acknowledged their great contribution. Speaking in Parliament on October 10, 1949, he said: "I wish this to he recorded in the House that during the last two or three years, if most members of the services had not been serving the country efficiently, practically the Union would have collapsed."
Patel has been accused of being anti-Muslim, Unfortunately, in present-day India, this accusation has to be faced by all those who have the courage and commitment of calling a spade a spade and making a distinction between appeasement and fairness and between whetting the appetite of a (mischievous and separatist) trouble-maker and telling him to behave.
Patel, it is often forgotten, was the Chairman of the Minorities Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly. The liberal provisions which our Constitution contains for the protection of linguistic and cultural rights of the minorities speak volumes about his catholicity.
Mahatma Gandhi's unflinching faith in Sardar Patel's secularism comes out clearly in a letter of October 24, 1924, written to him by Mahadev Desai, during Gandhi's famous 21-day fast for Hindu-Muslim unity. Mahadev said: "Whatever may happen on the Hindu-Muslim front in Gujarat, as long as you are there, Bapu is at peace. If a storm occurs despite your presence, Bapu will assume that it was not possible to prevent it."
(Remarkable last line with regard to the situation in Gujarat: “If a storm occurs despite your presence.” What about the storm in the whole of India despite the Bapu’s presence? It speaks volumes for Mr. Mahadev's naivity and ignorance with regard to the concept of Hindu-Muslim unity, which was after all, a bomb waiting to explode. It has not been recognized by top Hindu scholars yet that had all that immense time and effort, that was devoted to keeping the Muslims appeased, and the Hindus ignorant of the “Islamic bomb” in our midst, been used to prepare the Hindus for the extreme danger they were about to face, and had it all been used to unite them, the Hindus, and India as a WHOLE, would have been ready to deal with the sudden and savage Islamic attack that did ultimately materialise in 1947. While the Hindu was lulled to sleep by the chants of “Ishwar Allah tero Nam”, and assured of the joys and blessings of Independence, the INDIAN Muslims (whom Pandit Nehru and "Mahatma" Gandhi brazenly called "indigenous"), started slaughtering their (Hindu and Sikh) fellow citizens, attacked the country of their own birth, and broke her up into three ludicrous fragments, thus putting a question mark against the very survival of Hindusthan. A wise and far-seeing Hindu leadership, would, instead, have concentrated on strengthening the Hindu nation that had been weakened over the previous centuries. We would have finally succeeded with one tenth of the time and effort that were expended on the futile and infantile missions of Hindu-Muslim unity!)
Though little known, Patel's work in the field of civic administration was no less remarkable. In 1948, the Bombay Corporation held a civic reception in honour of Patel. On the occasion, he was asked what he considered to be the 'finest hour' of his illustrious career. Nobody expected him to say what he said - inviting attention to his work first as Chairman of the Sanitary Committee (1917-22) and then as President of the Municipal Board (1924-28).
Patel reflected: "To cleanse the dirt of the city is quite different from cleansing the dirt of politics. From the former you get a good night's rest while the latter keeps you worried and you lose your sleep."
Patel was an embodiment of probity in public life. The only property he left, comprised a few dhotis and kurtas and a suitcase. But he bequeathed to the nation a many-splendoured legacy. Can we, afford to neglect this legacy - particularly its ethical foundation and its profound commitment to the country's integrity and stability?
(The writer is Union Minister of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation. Comments in brackts by Owner Website.)
Patel, Vallabhbhai (1875-1950), Indian nationalist leader, born in Gujarât. He studied law in England but returned (1915) to India and practiced in Ahmadâbâd. Influenced by the nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi, he joined the civil disobedience movement and successfully organized (1928) the landowners of Bardoli against British tax increases. In 1931 he served as president of the Indian National Congress. The British imprisoned Patel a number of times for his activities. (Ref.: MS Encarta, 1999).
(Like all other self-effacing Hindu leaders, Mr. Vallabhbhai Patel, stayed away from Independence talks with the British. He is not known to have played any part in preventing Partition. It was India’s historic tragedy. There is no doubt that given his patriotism, guts and vision, this man would have proved a befitting match for Mr. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the INDIAN Muslims at the time.
It is believed that ambitious and ruthless Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, seeing his chance for power through partition, deliberately kept Sardar Patel in the background while at the same time side-lining “Mahatma” Gandhi totally.
In the past half a century, Pandit Nehru’s power hungry, unscrupulous and thoroughly corrupt “All-India Congress Party” has behaved no better. Partitioned India is at the brink of civil war, which Sardar Patel could have confronted head on, and prevented.)