AIR spotlight summary on “The Role of Sardar Vallabhai Patel in Uniting the Nation”.
October 31, 2016 marks the 141st birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel who is one of the founding fathers of Republic of India. He was called the Iron man and was the first Home Minister of the country. He had the tough task of unifying the 550 odd princely states into one homogenous country.
- Uniting the Nation was indeed a formidable task because things were done in a context where lot of fast moving developments were taking place. If Mahatma Gandhi was the father of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru was the father of the Indian State, Sardar Vallabhai Patel could be legitimately claimed to be the Father of the Indian Union. It was he through the tireless efforts, through persuasion, diplomacy, sometimes threat of coercion, military use and the whole process was a lasting achievement to the building of the Indian Republic.
- P Menon in his book “Integration of Indian States” narrates the efforts of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and he mentions how the princes agreed to join the Union of India with the central government retaining the powers of Defence, External Affairs, communication and Railways.
- The only state which was given special status and special rights was Jammu and Kashmir where it was agreed that it would be protected in the constitution. For others the Instrument of Accession was an indication that they would join the Indian Union and certain promises were made, that their rights would be protected and privileges would be safeguarded. When it came to integration Sardar Vallabhai Patel laid great stress on accession.
- British colonial rule created a haphazard mix of territories. The boundaries that emerged were because of military conquests or treaties with the local rulers. It made no sense on the ground. One of the plans of the national movement was to put this in order by recognising the socio-cultural entities and would redraw the map of India. Sardar Vallabhai Patel contribution was to create the space for this reorganisation of states.
- Sardar Vallabhai Patel was the loyal and steadfast soldier of the Indian struggle for Independence. In 1991 Sardar Vallabhai Patel was given the Bharat Ratna. It is because of people like him that today we are proud of the Union of India.
Border issue during Uniting the Nation
- The whole question of borders was a new question that India had to face. The efforts of Sardar Vallabhai Patel was to make sure that an already complicated situation on the ground did not get further complicated. It was his commitment to a strong state and a strong union that motivated him to push where rulers were hesitant as to which would be a more advantageous option. He made it very clear that for those on this side of the border there was only one option and that was India.
Contribution in saving Jammu and Kashmir for India
- Those were the trouble times. The infiltrators from the other side of the border had begun moving in. During the enormous journey of the migration on the either side, Sardar Vallabhai Patel resolutely as Home Minister looked after the protection of the people.
- His contribution in the Kashmir crisis, air lifting of the troops was decisive and it was the prompt decision that he was known to take. There was no time lost in getting the troops there and halting the advancement of infiltrators.
Contribution during Hyderabad crisis
- Here it was a police action. It was a clear and decisive step which had not been taken. It had all the potential of creating a hot bed of instability in Hyderabad. Sardar Vallabhai Patel had the same kind of firmness in the case of Goa, but it was overruled because throwing Portuguese out by the use of armed force did not appeal to the government at that time. But later the government had to do it.
- Razakars went on a rampage and there was enormous civilian unrest and sufferings because of their violence. Sardar Vallabhai Patel acted promptly and retreat the situation.
How Sardar Vallabhai Patel manage to bring rulers to Indian fold
- Sardar Vallabhai Patel had skilful combination of diplomatic persuasion of pointing to the larger long term interests of the population and also with a certain amount of arms twisting which made it clear that there would be a price to pay if the rulers did not accept the conditions the Indian government was putting. The rulers tried to balance their own self interest, their own loyalties, and identities with the wellbeing of the people.
- Sardar Vallabhai Patel had strong will and his decisiveness, taking tough decisions, and his undivided loyalty towards Mahatma Gandhi marks him out among his peers.
- The granting of Privy Purse was logical at that time since the Union was being built with the cooperation of these princes. Subsequently the relations soured and the Privy Purse was abolished.