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Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel

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Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel

sardar

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was one of the important social and political leaders of India. He was nicknamed ‘Sardar’ and is called ‘Iron man of India’. He got inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and thus joined the Indian Independence Movement.
 He brought together the peasants of Kheda, Bardoli and other parts of Gujarat and launched non-violent Civil Disobedience Movement in Gujarat against the raise in tax, imposed by the British government. British government suspended the revenue for that year as a result of this movement.

He worked against alcoholism, untouchability and caste discrimination in Gujarat. He was elected as the municipal president of Ahmedabad in 1922, 1924 and 1927. He led Satyagraha in Nagpur in 1923 against the British law in absence of Mahatma Gandhi.

Vallabhai Patel was a prominent leader in organizing the Quit India Movement in 1942. Vallabhai Patel was appointed first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India after India's independence. He organized relief camps for refugees in Punjab and Delhi.

Independence struggle

At the urging of his friends, Vallabhbhai Patel won an election to become the sanitation commissioner of Ahmadabad in the year 1917. Though he was often clashing with the British on civic issues, he did not show any interest in politics. 

Patel was deeply impressed and attracted when Gandhi defied British and their activities. Patel gave a speech in Borsad in September 1917 where he encouraged Indians across the nation to sign Gandhi’s petition demanding Swaraj from the British. 

He met Gandhi a month later in the Gujarat Political Conference in Godhra and became the secretary of the Gujarat Sabha. He fought against ‘veth’ or the force servitude of Indians to Europeans and organized relief efforts in wake of the plague and famine in Kheda.

Vallabhbhai Patel also began a village to village tour in the Kheda district supported by the Congress volunteers. They documented grievances and asked villagers for their support for a statewide revolt by refusing the payment of taxes. 

Vallabhbhai Patel emphasized potential hardships with the need for complete unity and non violence despite any provocation. When the revolt was launched and revenue refused, the government sent police to seize property and arrest people. Many people were arrested except Patel. The government then agreed to negotiate with Patel and decided to suspend the payment of revenue for the year, even scaling back the rate. 

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Patel then emerged as a hero among the Gujaratis. He was elected as the President of the newly formed Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee where he served till the year 1945. Vallabhbhai Patel also supported Mahatma Gandhi’s non corporation movement and toured the state to recruit more than 300,000 members and raise over 1.5 million rupees in funds. 

He also helped organize bonfires of British goods in Ahmadabad. He switched to wearing khadi and also supported Gandhi’s controversial suspension of resistance in the wake of Chauri Chaura incident. He worked extensively in the following years in Gujarat against alcoholism, untouchability and caste discrimination as well as for the empowerment of women. 

In Congress, Patel was a resolute supporter of Gandhi against his Swarajist critics. Vallabhbhai Patel was also elected Ahmadabad’s municipal president in the years 1922, 1924 and 1927/ during his term, Ahmadabad was extended to a major supply of electricity and the school system underwent major reforms. 

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Patel himself led relief efforts in the aftermath of the intense torrential rainfall in 1927. When Gandhi was in prison, Vallabhbhai Patel was asked by Congress members to lead the Satyagraha in Nagpur in the year 1923 against a law banning the raising of the Indian flag. 

He organized thousands of volunteers from across the country in processions hoisting the flag. Patel negotiated a settlement that obtained the release of all prisoners and allowed nationalists to hoist the flag in public. 

According to historians, one of Vallabhbhai Patel’s key achievements was the building of cohesion and trust amongst the different castes and communities which were divided on socio-economic lines.

On April 1928, Patel returned to the freedom struggle from his municipal duties in Ahmadabad when Bardoli suffered a serious predicament of a famine and steep tax hike. He organized volunteers, camps and information network across affected areas. 

The struggle intensified despite arrests and reached a head in August, when through sympathetic intermediaries, Patel negotiated a settlement repealing the tax hike reinstating village officials and returned the seized property and lands. 

It was during the struggle and the victory in Bardoli where Patel was increasingly addressed by his colleagues and followers as ‘Sardar’. As Gandhi started the Dandi Salt March, Patel was arrested in the village of Ras and tried without witnesses. 

There were no pressmen or lawyer allowed to enter. His arrest and Gandhi’s subsequent arrest caused the Salt Satyagraha to be more intense in Gujarat. After he was released, he served as interim Congress president but was re-arrested while leading a procession in Mumbai. 

After the signing of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Vallabhbhai Patel was elected Congress president for its 1931 session in Karachi.  Patel then used his position as Congress president to organize the return on confiscated lands to farmers in Gujarat. 

After the Round Table Conference in London failed, Gandhi and Patel was arrested in January 1932 when the struggle re-opened and was imprisoned in Yeravda Central Jail. During this imprisonment, Gandhi and Patel came close to each other and developed a bond among them. 

When Gandhi embarked on a fast unto death, protesting the separate electorates allocated for untouchables, Patel looked after him closely and he refrained from taking food.  Patel was arrested and moved to a jail in Nasik and was released on July 1934.

There was also an initiative by C. Rajagopalachari to offer Congress’s full support to Britain if it promised Indian independence at the end of the war and install a democratic government right away. The British rejected this initiative and Patel went back to embrace Gandhi’s leadership again. 

He participated in Gandhi’s call for individual disobedience and was arrested in the year 1940 and imprisoned for nine months. He also opposed the proposals of the Cripps’ mission in the year 1942. He also supported Gandhiji’s Quit India Movement and Gandhi’s proposal for an all out campaign of civil disobedience to force the British to leave India. 

He was again arrested on 9th August and was imprisoned with the entire Congress Working Committee from the year 1942 to 1945 at a fort in Ahmednagar. During that time, he spun cloth, played bridge and read many books. When Vallabhbhai Patel was released on 15th June 1945, he realized that the British were preparing proposals to transfer power to Indian hands.

In the 1946 election for Congress presidency, Patel stepped down in favor of Nehru at the request of Gandhi. Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the first Congress leaders to accept the partition of India as a solution to the rising Muslim separatist movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 

It was he who represented India on the Partition Council where he oversaw the division of public assets and selected the Indian council of ministers with Nehru. However, after the protests which occurred after the partition, he worked hard and successively to reduce the communal violence between the people. This event made Vallabhbhai Patel remembered as the man who united India. 

He also became popular in the post independence era. The Congress considered Patel the best man for the task of achieving unification of the princely states with the Indian dominion. He was also considered a statesman of integrity with the practical acumen and resolved to accomplish a monumental task. After India gained her independence, it was C. 

Rajagopalachari, Nehru and Patel who formed the triumvirate which ruled India from the year 1948 to 1950. Patel was a senior leader in the Constituent Assembly of India and was responsible in a large measure for shaping India’s constitution. He was also known as the ‘Bismark of India’. He was largely associated with the upliftment of rural folk. 

He was also instrumental in the founding of the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service. For his defence of Indian civil servants from the political attack, he is known as the ‘patron saint’ of India’s services. He also was instrumental in accessing border issues and infiltration through the borders of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Vallabhbhai Patel was intensely loyal to Gandhi and both he and Nehru looked to him to resolve disputes. However, both Nehru and Patel sparred over national issues. Due to disputes and differences, Patel asked Gandhi to relive him of his obligation to serve knowing that he lacked Nehru’s youth and popularity. 

However, after much personal deliberation and contrary to Patel’s prediction, Gandhi on 30th January 1948 told Patel not to leave the government. According to Gandhi, a free India needed both Patel and Nehru. Vallabhbhai Patel was the last man to talk privately with Gandhi, who was assassinated just minutes after Patel’s departure. 

Within two months of Gandhi’s death, Patel suffered a heart attack and was saved by timely action of his daughter, secretary and nurse. During that time, Patel’s home ministry was highly criticized for having failed to protect Gandhi. 

Later due to differences again, there was a major fall out between Patel and Nehru and later Patel resigned from the party feeling that the party has no confidence on him.

Awards and Recognitions:

Vallabhbhai Patel was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna officially in the year 1991. His birthday, 31st October is celebrated nationally as the Sardar Jayanti. The Sardar Patel National Memorial was established in the year 1980 at the Moti Shahi Mahal in Ahmadabad. 

Among the exhibits are many Patel’s personal effects and relics from various periods of his personal and political life. A major initiative to build dams, canals and hydroelectric power plants on the Narmada river valley to provide a tri-state area with drinking water, electricity and increase agricultural production was named the Sardar Sarovar. 

There are also several institutions and schools like the Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, the Sardar Patel University and Sardar Patel Vidyalaya among others are named after him. India’s national police training academy is also named after him. 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, popularly known as ‘iron Man of India’ is also remembered as the ‘Patron Saint’ of India’s civil servants for establishing modern all-India services. He was also one of the earliest proponents of property rights and free enterprise in India.

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Statue of Unity 

The Statue of Unity is the world's tallest statue, with a height of 182 metres (597 feet), located in the state of Gujarat, India. It depicts Indian statesman and independence activist Vallabhbhai Patel

Portrayals:

In the year 1976, Kantilal Rathod directed a documentary on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. In Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982), actor Saeed Jaffrey portrayed Patel’s character. 

In a satirical novel ‘The Great Indian Novel’ (1989) by Shashi Tharoor, the character of Vidur Hastinapur is simultaneously based on Patel as well as mythological character Vidura. 

The biopic ‘Sardar’ (1993) was produced and directed by Ketan Mehta and featured noted India actor Paresh Rawal as Patel. The biopic focused on Patel’s leadership in the years leading up to independence, the Indian partition, India’s political integration and Patel’s relationship with Gandhi and Nehru. Arun Sadekar plays Patel in ‘Hey Ram’ (2000), a film made by Kamal Haasan.
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