Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel consolidated the country into one united whole in a unique manner after independence. He was a man of iron will and absolute fearlessness. He tackled the question of more than 500 Native States, territories and principalities in a masterly strategic manner. He was a great statesman and humanitarian administrator who did social work by not spending tonnes of money in relief work.
I.J. Patel worked as the Vice Chancellor of Sardar Patel University, Vidyanagar (Gujarat).He wrote many biographies, many of them got prestigious awards.
Sardar Patel was one of those who inspired me to a life of social service and dedicated work. As a tribute to him as well as to provide young people with an ideal, I wrote his biography in Gujarati. The same was very well received and later was translated into Hindi.
when therefore, I received an invitation from the Publications Division, Government of India, for writing the same in English, I readily accepted as it was a golden opportunity to let the Great man be known to a wider reading public.
He was pillar of strength to India and will always be remembered for the unique and unparalleled services he rendered to the nation. He was a man of rare qualities, the like of him, it is difficult, to decipher.
But for the incessant and untiring assistance given by Sarvashri V.J. Trivedi and H.K. Solanki, I should admit, it would not have been possible for me to have this English version ready in its present form.
I cannot forget the assistance of Shri B.T. Pathan, who sacrificed his moments of leisure to prepare the manuscript.
I am thankful to Prof. Mohanbhai Patel who scrutinised the manuscript in its final stage and made important suggestions.
I am grateful to the Publications Division for entrusting me with this biography.
The History of India would have been differently written had sardar patel not been the Deputy Prime Minister when India became independent in 1947. The triumvirate, Gandhiji, Nehru and sardar Patel-the benevolent triumvirate it has been often called -was responsible for giving direction to the destiny of the country. Gandhiji won the independence for the country, Pandit Nehru gave foreign policy a shape and strength and Sardar Patel consolidated the country into one united whole in a unique manner. A man of iron will and absolute fearlessness, Sardar Patel set about the task as Home Minister without fear or favour. He was one of those few men who knew what he wanted and knew also how to get it. A man with a superb knowledge of human nature-its strength and its weaknesses and an uncanny perception for sizing up human beings-Sardar Patel tackled the question of 550 and odd states and principalities in a masterly strategic manner which left even his wildest critics in complete amazement. Almost within a year he redrew the map of India with every princely State joining the Indian Union and thus forming part of the political stream of life that was endowed with unity as it was already endowed with a cultural unity and harmony. Even if Sardar Patel had not done anything else, his name would have been written in golden letters in Indian history for the future generations to take inspiration from. The surprising fact is that even though he took away everything from the princes, the princes never complained of any ill-treatment or any injustice from a person who never spared them trenchant criticism all his life. On the country they praised with one voice the generosity Sardar Patel had shown to them in manners, political, financial and so on. Whether he was a king of a big state or small, he treated each of them with kindness, consideration and fairplay that captivated the hearts of all those who came to scoff but remained to pray. Sardar's greatness lay in the fact that his sworn enemies turned into the most trustworthy admires.
But Sardar Patel had other facets of life which are equally inspiring and worth emulating. His physical courage at the time of his operation has very few parallels in the history of this land. His sacrifice of his legal practice, can be a torch-bearer for anyone who wants to serve the nation. But apart from his personal attributes, the integrity and singleness of purpose with which he served the cause of the farmers at Bardoli and Ras and other places is equally admirable. The Sardar had an iron determination which enabled him to see clearly the goals that the nation should have for itself. As a peasant, he was a realist par excellence. He went to the heart of the matter and wasted no time in searching the core, the centre of the problems that affected the country. His insight was clear; his understanding precise; his method straightforward. Naturally he could solve the problems of the farmers even with the British in a manner which left the foreign rulers agape. Any one who studies the history of the peasant movement in Gujarat will be convinced that, but for the extraordinary practical vision and perspicacity of Sardar Patel, the movement would have floundered. Not only was he courageous, he inspired courage in others as well. Not only did he resist the British in the tax collecting campaign but he convinced the farmers that their development lay in resisting it. And he organised this struggle in a manner that brought complete victory to the farmers. It was in this struggle that the organisational capacity for which Sardar Patel became famous in the whole country was visible. There was hardly a problem which the congress faced and which could not be solved by Sardar Patel quickly and skillfully. He knew where to yield just as he knew also where not to give in. This ability to give and take, is a characteristic of his whole life. But this 'give and take' was never at the cost of a principle or the organisation he served or at the cost of integrity. He was equally concerned with the manner of granting things as also the way in which he got things done. He trusted the trustworthy fully and they in turn reciprocated the trust by giving a life-time bond of love and readiness to sacrifice. And by happily blending trust and honour, the Sardar could achieve a firm organisation and lay the foundation for the congress as well as for the country. It was often said that the Sardar was ruthless but he was ruthless only when situations required it, otherwise like all great men, he had a heart of gold, whether in peace or in struggle, whether at work or at leisure, the Sardar rarely forgot the common men and women whom he knew, whom he loved and whom he trusted. whether it was bringing up of a friend's son or getting work for the son of his office clerk or looking after the health of his relatives or sending in a telegram of congratulations on the marriage of a friend's daughter-in all these the Sardar showed his humanity and his love for the people. Stern in appearance and rugged in countenance, the Sardar could, only if he would, inspire fear in others. But that was not the way he worked. He always tried to convince others as he did not tackle any problem in a light-hearted manner. He took the problems of the country seriously and his only aim was to see that the country which was already partitioned, remained intact and this he achieved gloriously.
The Sardar also had a constructive side to his nature which operated in the social work that he undertook. Whether as President of the Ahmedabad Municipality or as a Worker for the cause of the Harijans or the conduct of Ashrams and schools for the benefit of the poor children, the Sardar went about his work with a quiet determination that would attract any one's attention even today. The way that he waded in waters by day or in the night during the floods in Ahmedabad and the way the relief works were organised during and after the floods, did earn him a name as a humanitarian administrator. And this he did, not by spending tonnes of money but by a sense of thrift which is one of the characteristics of a good farmer. And the Sardar was truly a farmer's son. There was hardly any wastage of money in the relief works organised by Patel not only in Ahmedabad but in the entire States. The way in which he organized the work of Ashrams for Harijans and their schools is noble indeed. In 1934 when Gandhiji wanted funds to be raised for the cause of the Harijans, it was the Sardar who raised them. This side of his work has hardly been emphasized and spoken about as it really should have been. The Sardar was a constructive worker worth emulating and no one can easily hold a candle to him on this aspect of his personality. So great has been the impact of Vallabhbhai on civic affairs in Ahmedabad and Gujarat that even today a relief committee functions for Gujarat every time that it is engulfed in some natural or even man-made disaster. That the committee works almost thirty years after his death in the same unswerving spirit of dedicated service to humanity, is the result of the Sardar's vision.
However, the sense of transparent integrity that the Sardar had also been often lost sight of who in this wide world, would expect a father to remain away from his son's home at the time of his death? Little do people know and little have they realised that having found out that his name used by his son for supposedly selfish ends, the Sardar, during his last days in Bombay, did not even visit his house. It was at a friend's house that he breathed his last. What more shining example can you have of the honestly of a man to whom sacrifice, honestly and firmness of purpose and the holiness of means were virtues to be cultivated.
One might as well imagine that the Sardar was engrossed in the affairs of the country only. Such a view would be lop-sided. The Sardar knew foreign affairs as well as anybody. But he had full faith in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The fidelity that he owed to the mother institutions move him to follow Panditji both in letter and spirit and yet within the framework of the constitutions, he aired his views as frankly and freely as was expected of a great leader. But like a true solider, he abided by the decisions of the Prime Minister no matter whether he agreed with them or not nor did he create any crisis. He was ardently concerned with the task of getting along and seeing that the country developed as quickly as it could. He knew that time was against him as his own health stood shattered. It was by hard work and sacrifice that he solved the problems that came his way. He utilised every opportunity with a single-minded purpose which left no room for complacency. He knew that independence was one thing but growth and development of the country another. Whatever be our direction, we have to be realistic and mobilise all our services to see that the poor in the country had the share of this development. In this adventure of building new India he sought the cooperation of the steel frame-the former I.C.S. officers and won them over completely and they responded to his call to serve the country whole-heartedly.
The Sardar argued with all those who were against the I.C.S. on the simple plane of practicality. It is not given to most people to be unselfish and self-sacrificing. There can be compelling reasons for the behaviour of the people at various times and in various circumstances. But in the changed circumstances if people or servants are given an opportunity to react differently then an attempt must be made to find out whether a changed reaction has set in. This the Sardar amply did by showing a new way of serving the country both to the I.C.S. and to the Native States.
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