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  • Raghav Sand

Iron Man: Sardar Patel

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, later known as Sardar Patel, was born on October 31, 1875, Nadiad, Gujarat, India; he died on December 15, 1950, Bombay [now Mumbai]. During the first three years of Indian independence after 1947, he served as deputy Prime Minister, minister of home affairs, and minister of information.

Patel was born into a self-sufficient family. His upbringing had a strong influence of traditional Hindu values. Even as a young boy Vallabhbhai displayed qualities of organization and leadership that marked him out for his future role. Once as a sixth-grade boy he organized a successful strike of his classmates that lasted for three days to teach a lesson to one of the teachers who was unduly fond of caning his wards.

Marriage and Early Career

Patel married at the age of 16, matriculated at 22, and passed the district pleader’s examination, which enabled him to practice law. In 1900 he set up an independent office of district pleader in Godhra, and two years later he moved to Borsad.

In 1908 Patel lost his wife, who had borne him a son and daughter, and thereafter remained a widower. Determined to enhance his career in the legal profession, Patel travelled to London in August 1910 to study at the Middle Temple. On his return to India in 1913, he set up practice in Ahmedabad and made a great success of it.

Early Political Career

Sardar Patel’s life changed forever in 1917 after getting influenced by Mohandas K. Gandhi, who later came known to be known as Mahatma Gandhi. In support of Gandhi, Patel modified his dressing and lifestyle to traditional Indian values. Patel made his mark in 1918 when he led farmer protests against the British for collecting revenue taxes despite crop failure. In 1928 Patel successfully led the landowners of Bardoli in their resistance against increased taxes. His efficient leadership of the Bardoli campaign earned him the title sardar (“leader”), and henceforth he was acknowledged as a nationalist leader throughout India.

Role in Indian National Movement

He was an active member of All India Congress Committee (AICC) and a much-awaited speaker at its meetings. AICC passed the famous Quit India resolution in Bombay on August 8, 1942, and Vallabhbhai, along with the other members of the working committee, was arrested on August 9, 1942 and detained in the Ahmednagar Fort while Gandhiji, Kasturba and Mahadev Desai were detained in the Aga Khan’s Palace.

What did Sardar Patel actually think of RSS?
From Left: Jawahar Lal Nehru, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Vallabhbhai J. Patel

Sardar was in jail for about three years this time. When, at the end of second world war, the Congress leaders were freed and the British Government decided to find a peaceful constitutional solution to the problem of India’s Independence, Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the chief negotiators of the Congress.

Contributions in Post-Independence India

When India attained Independence in 1947, he became the Deputy Prime Minister and was responsible for the Home, States and the Information and Broadcasting portfolios.

It was in this capacity that he was called upon to tackle the most intricate and baffling problem of the States’ integration into the Union of India. Patel handled the question as only he could have handled it, managing, in less than a year’s time, to reduce the Princely States from 562 to 26 administrative units and bringing democracy to nearly 80 million people of India, comprising almost 27 per cent of the country’s population. The integration of the States could certainly be termed as the crowning achievement of Vallabhbhai Patel’s life.

As Minister of Home Affairs, he presided over efforts to bring back order and peace to a country ravaged by communal strife unprecedented in its history.

Respect from Luminaries

Sardar Patel is regarded as one of the greatest Indians simply by the impact he made on his contemporaries. “Jawaharlal is a thinker and Sardar is a doer.” These were Gandhiji’s words at the Karachi session of the Congress in 1931. Jawaharlal Nehru might not have always agreed with Patel’s ideology but spoke about him with high regards. He said, “History will call him (Sardar Patel) the builder and consolidator of new India.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a conscious effort to remind the citizens of India regarding Patel’s contribution as a statesman par excellence.

Graphical representation of ‘Statue of Unity’

Modi remarked, “There were many who used to think that a diverse country like India can never remain united. It will fall apart. But Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel showed how it is done. We should learn how to grow from strength to strength, how to always stay united. Sardar Patel used Kautilya’s wisdom and Shivaji Maharaj’s bravery to achieve the great feat of uniting India after partition. He did something that was unparalleled. From Kutch to Kohima, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Sardar Patel united the country. It is because of him that we can travel to all the great sites and meet the great people of all the states within India without a visa”.

Sardar’s Word of Wisdom for Present Woes

As a nation India has many ongoing challenges. Every issue is important in its own right, but some of the key areas of concern have been the politics of caste, violent protests including damage to public property and freedom of press. Sardar Patel’s thoughts should be followed in letter and spirit to overcome these shortcomings

On Revolution:

“One can take the path of revolution but the revolution should not give a shock to the society. There is no place for violence in revolution.”

On Casteism:

“No distinctions of caste and creed should hamper us. All are the sons and daughters of India. We should all love our country and build our destiny on mutual love and help.”

On Freedom of Press:

“While the Press must have full freedom to express their ideas, it must realize its own responsibilities. Freedom has its obligations.”

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