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Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel (October 31, 1875–December 15, 1950), popularly referred to as Sardar Patel, was an Indian statesman, an important leader of the Indian National Congress and the deputy Prime Minister in the first cabinet of Independent India.
Vallabhbhai Patel was born into a farmer family on October 31, 1875, in Nadiad, Gujarat, India. He was the fourth son of Jhaverbhai Patel and Ladba. Somabhai, Narsibhai and Vitthalbhai Patel were his elder brothers. Like his contemporaries in the Indian freedom movement, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, he also went to London to be trained as a barrister. He returned to India to become one of the leading lawyers in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Inspired by Gandhi, he joined the freedom movement.
Movement for Indian independence
Sardar Patel's first major participation was during the Kheda Struggle. The Kheda division of Gujarat was reeling under a severe drought and the peasants asked for relief from the high rate of taxes. When it was denied, Sardar Patel, Gandhi and others led the villagers in their refusal to pay the taxes. Ultimately the government granted tax relief for that year resulting in the first major success for Sardar in his public life.
Sardar's name is associated with the Satyagraha or non-cooperation movement in the town of Bardoli , Gujarat. His strong leadership in the Bardoli struggle gave him the name “ Sardar of Bardoli ” and later just Sardar.
Power within Congress
Patel joined the Congress during Gandhi's non-cooperation movements of the twenties and by 1937 had been Congress President twice. He was popular within the party bureaucracy and the masses, but Jawaharlal Nehru, considered to be Patel's rival within the party and the leader of the socialists in Congress, was considered a far more charismatic and appealing mass leader. Despite their differences, they decided to work towards the common cause of unseating the British mainly due to Gandhi's intervention. Patel, who was loyal to Gandhi, did not go against the latter's wish to see the Cambridge-educated Nehru as the successor to his legacy.
Though Patel had the backing of most of the provincial Congress committees, he kept out of the race for Prime Ministership as per Gandhi's wishes and supported Nehru's candidacy. He was then given the post of Deputy PM and the powerful Home Ministry, but relations between him and Nehru continued to be strained, with both threatening to resign on several occasions. His most immediate concern was consolidation of the Indian princely states into the Union of India, which he accomplished bloodlessly except in the case of Hyderabad where he sent the army. His contribution to the unification of India made him known as the Iron Man of India. He died in 1950, leaving Nehru less opposition within the party.
Integration of Princely States
Even during the transition period before Independence, assisted by bureaucrat V.P. Menon, Patel worked towards the integration of the numerous Indian states into the Indian union. Patel and Menon attempted to persuade the princes of the impossibilty of autonomy from the Indian republic, especially in the presence of growing opposition from their subjects. He also proposed favourable terms for the merger, including creation of privy purses for the descendants of the rulers. All but three of the states willingly merged into the Indian union leading to the comment that Patel “liquidated the princely states without liquidating the princes”. Only Jammu and Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad did not fall into his “basket”. Junagadh joined the union, following protests against the Nawab, who then fled to Pakistan. When the Nizam of Hyderabad refused to join the union, Patel sent the army and Hyderabad surrendered in a few days. Citing the international character of the Kashmir dispute, the Nehru took direct charge of Kashmiri affairs.
- Ahmedabad's airport is named Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport.
- Sardar Patel University, in Vallabh Vidhyanagar, Gujarat.
- Awarded the Bharat Ratna (jewel of India) posthumously
Gandhi, Rajmohan (1987). Patel, A Life. Navajivan publishing house, Ahmedabad.
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