- GS-1: Modern History
- GS-4: Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders
Sardar Patel – The Iron Man of India
Context: Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s death anniversary on 15th December 2021.
“By common endeavour we can raise the country to a new greatness, while a lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities.”
These pragmatic but profound remarks defined the vision and the sterling character of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the principal unifier of modern India.
- First Deputy Prime Minister of India
- Provided good governance as an able administrator in diverse fields like modern farming and empowerment of tribal communities
Force behind unification
- Patel was a statesman with a strong sense of realpolitik, a realist to the core and an earthy politician whose sole aim was to build a strong and united India.
- The princely rulers had the option at that time to either accede to India or Pakistan or remain independent.
- Widely considered to be the architect of modern India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played an important role in the integration of all the princely states (especially Hyderabad, Junagadh and Kashmir) into the Indian Union after the British left India in 1947.
- Hailing Patel’s feat, Lord Mountbatten declared the unification of India as the first great success of the new independent government.
- Patel’s wisdom, foresight, patriotism, tact, persuasive powers and abiding commitment to fair play enabled him to untangle a highly complex political and social problem without triggering any kind of revolt or civil unrest.
Operation Polo (Hyderabad) and case of Junagarh
- Patel was also compelled to use coercion by launching ‘Operation Polo’ to liberate and integrate Hyderabad after the Nizam of Hyderabad entertained false hopes of either joining Pakistan or remaining independent.
- In a swift operation lasting five days, Hyderabad State was liberated in September 1948.
- It was the most critical time when the country’s political unity was in jeopardy, India found the man of the moment in Sardar Patel.
- Displaying statesmanship of the highest order, Sardar Patel prevented the attempts to not only Balkanise India but internationalise the issue as well.
- The complicated case of Junagarh, Gujarat, was also handled with dexterity by Patel.
Leader of Gujarat
- Organised peasants from Kheda, Borsad, and Bardoli in Gujarat in non-violent civil disobedience against the British Raj, becoming one of the most influential leaders in Gujarat.
- He earned the title of “Sardar” after spearheading a no-tax campaign by peasants at Bardoli in Gujarat. The manner in which he marshalled the peasants and the unflinching stand taken by him eventually forced the authorities to roll back the taxes.
- He also led the relief and rehabilitation operations when Gujarat was ravaged by floods and worked tirelessly during a plague outbreak in Ahmedabad.
A builder of India
- Patel himself termed the entire exercise as a “bloodless revolution” when he wanted the Constituent Assembly to consider privy purse settlements for the surrender by the rulers of all their ruling powers and the dissolution of the States as separate units.
- Patel was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and never swerved in his loyalty to his mentor, although there were occasions when he differed with him.
- Similarly, he did not see eye-to-eye with Jawaharlal Nehru on certain issues, including the handling of Jammu and Kashmir.
- But he did not allow these differences or personal ego to come in the way of protecting the larger interests of the country. He worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Nehru in building a modern India.
Architect of the steel frame
- The Iron Man of India was the chief architect of India’s steel frame — the civil services.
- Thus, the All India Services were seen as an important cementing force in promoting the unity and integrity of the nation.
- It will be relevant to recall his famous address to the civil service probationers in 1947, when Patel told them that the service will have to adopt its true role of national service without being trammelled upon by traditions and habits of the past.
- He is also remembered as the “patron saint of India’s civil servants” for having established the modern all-India services system. “A civil servant cannot afford to, and must not, take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangles. To depart from the path of rectitude in either of these respects is to debase public service and to lower its dignity,” he had cautioned them on April 21, 1947.
The man of integrity and intentions of “nation first”
- He readily accepted the Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to withdraw his candidacy for the post of Congress President in favour of Pandit Nehru in 1946, although a majority of State Congress committees supported his candidature.
- It was apparent that the Congress President would become the first Prime Minister of India. It once again proved his noble intention of placing the country’s interests above self.
- His love for the motherland was best described by Maulana Azad when he said: “He made his choice out of two courses that come before a man, namely would he live for his country or for himself? Sardar chose his country.”
- Patel’s idea of unity was incomplete.
- He may have created a united India, but this India remains full of contradictions and inequalities, both social and economic.
- Politically, we may be equal and united, but socially and economically we are not.
Acknowledging the monumental contribution of Patel in nation building, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “History will call him the builder and consolidator of new India.”
The remarks Patel made during the Quit India Movement are also relevant today. He said: “We have to shed mutual bickering, shed the difference of being high or low and develop the sense of equality and banish untouchability. We have to live like the children of the same father”.
Connecting the dots:
Statue of Unity
- On Sadhu Hill
- Standing at 182 meters in the middle of river Narmada at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district, the Statue of Unity is the tallest statue in the world– much taller than the 153 metre Spring Temple Buddha in China and almost twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in New York. (remember the places for Prelims)
- One can have a view of the Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges, which also form the point where Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra meet. (Prelims centric fact)
- Visitors can also get a distant view of the 12-km-long Garudeshwar Reservoir (which will help ensure there is always water around the statue), which is located downstream from the Narmada dam. (Prelims centric – location of the reservoir)
- Man Behind the Statue: Shri Ram Vanji Sutar, the 93-year-old sculptor.