Famous Personalities - Vallabhabhai Patel (1875-1950)

Famous Personalities - Vallabhabhai Patel (1875-1950)

1. Popularly known as the Iron Man of India.
2. He started his career as a barrister in Gujarat.
3. He entered the national movement under the influence of Gandhi and drew close to him during the Khera Satyagraha in 1918.
4. He shot to great prominence after the Bardoli Satyagraha of 1928.
5. He was the President of Indian National Congress in 1931 (Karachi) and served as Home Minister in the Interim Government 1947-1948.
6. After India's independence, he became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs.
7. He did commendable job of integration of the Indian states.
8. He is regarded as the 'Father of all India Services'.

Introduction: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was an important leader of Indian National Congress during India’s struggle for independence against the British rule. He effected the consolidation of India by bringing within the orbit of the Indian Republic all the numerous States into which Native India had been divided during the British regime.

Sardar Patel was born on October 31, 1875, in the home of a Patidar family at Karamsad in Kaira District, Gujarat. He had four brothers and one sister. The late V.J. Patel, the illustrious ex-President of the Indian Legislative Assembly was his eldest brother.

Sardar Patel married Jhaverba of Gana village in the neighborhood of Karamsad. He had two children by her – Maniben, the daughter, and Dayabhai, the son. Jhaverba died in a Bombay Hospital in 1908.

Early life and Education: Patel’s father, Jhabherbhai, was a sturdy peasant and a courageous man. In 1857, he traveled a long and difficult way northwards to join the Sepoy Mutiny.

Sardar Patel had his early education in the Primary school of his native village at Karamsad and later in a High School at Nadiad. He matriculated in 1897.

Thereafter, he became a lawyer. He started legal practice in Panchmahal District, and later shifted first to Kaira and then to the Ahmadabad District Court. In 1910, Vallabhbhai went to England to qualify himself for the Bar. After he had passed the Bar Examination in 1912, obtaining a first class and topping the list of successful candidates, he was called to the Middle Temp Bar in January 1913. On returning from England in February 1913, he set up practice e at the Ahmedabad District Court.

As a Lawyer and Municipal Commissioner: As he rose to fame and influence as a lawyer at Ahmedabad, Patel was elected one of the city’s Municipal Commissioners in 1915. It was about this time that he made his acquaintance with Mahatma Gandhi, which was a fateful event of his great career.

Kaira Satyagraha: He lent his active co-operation to Gandhiji for the first time in the Kaira Satyagraha of 1918. He was of invaluable help to Gandhiji in the attainment of a great victory in the No-Tax Campaign that he had waged on behalf of the poverty-stricken peasants of Kaira.

The historic agitation against Rowlatt Act initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1919 brought Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel into prominence as a popular leader in Western India. He led the agitation in Gujarat.

Sardar Patel, by conducting a campaign, at Ahmadabad strictly according to the principle of Passive Resistance established his reputation as a skilled General of the Gadhian order.

Joins Mahatma Gandhi: Then came Non-co-operation in 1920. Aiming at putting an end to what was called the ‘Satanic Government’, non-co-operation, combined with the forces brought into play by the Khilafat grievances of the Indian Muslims, swept across the country like a high tidal wave. Mahatma Gandhi was its great leader. Vallabhbhai Patel wholeheartedly joined it by giving up forever his highly lucrative practice as one of the leading criminal lawyers in Bombay or in the whole of “Western India.

His service to the cause of non-co-operation movement began to get recognition among the people of his province. They now elected him Chairman of the Reception committee of the 36th Session of the Indian National Congress held at Ahmedabad in December, 1921 when the movement was raging high all over the country. At this time, Sardarji was also President of Bombay Provincial Congress Committee.

As a no-changer: The next few years constituted an important period of Indian political history of which the main event was the Swarajya Party’s agitation for Council Entry and for wrecking Diarchy in the provinces.

Congress now came to be sharply divided between pro-changers and no-changers. Sardar Patel was one of the staunchest among the Gandhian no-changers, the other being C. Rajagopalachari, Dr. Ansari, Pandit Shyamsundar Chakravborty, Sri Jamunalal Bajaj and Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

Nagpur Flag Satyagraha: In May 1923, the Nagpur Flag Satyagraha Campaign started as a reaction against an order under Section 144 that promulgated in Nagpur city prohibiting any procession carrying the National flag. Vallabhbhai Patel was the hero of the scene, ending the campaign successfully in August that year.

Bardoli Satyagraha Movement: The next great victory in Patel’s life as a fighter for Indian freedom came in 1928. This year he led, with conspicuous results, what is known in Indian political history as the Bardoli Satyagraha campaign.

Under his inspiring guidance the riots of Bardoli brave d the most horrible oppression by the myrmidons of law and order and other dire consequences for their decision not to pay an enhanced land revenue which had been levied upon them. The riots won the non-violent war against the mighty British Raj.

Sardar Patel emerged out of his historic Bardoli campaign as the ‘Iron Man of India’. Now he was known as the ‘Sardar of Bardoli’ or the mighty Ploughman of India.

Civil Disobedience Movement: In 1930, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the prominent leaders of the First Civil Disobedience Movement. Gandhiji started it with his dramatic march on Dandi beginning on March 12, 1930 with a group of Satyagrahis carefully selected by him.

Sardar Patel went in advance of Gandhiji explaining the principles of the campaign to the village folks among 200-mile long route from Sabarmati to Dandi. However, he was arrested at a village.

Acting President of Indian National Congress: Immediately on his release from prison after some three months, the Acting President of the Indian National Congress, Pandit Motilal Nehru honored Sardar Patel by appointing him as the Congress President in his place.

By this time, congress organization almost everywhere in India had been declared illegal. Amidst this, on July 7, Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, in an address to the Central Legislative Assembly, added insult to injury by flourishing the big stick against the Congress, its leaders and the people who had joined the mighty uprising.

Sardar Patel was not the man to take all this lying low. As Congress President, he replied to the Vice-regal threat on July 13 in a remarkable speech. In a befitting peroration to it, the ‘Sardar of Bardoli’, urged that every home in India must henceforward be a Congress office and every human soul in the country should be a Congress organization. His spirited speech and his intensified propaganda subsequent to it, gave great fillip to the movement in the country.

President of the Indian National Congress held at Karachi: Patel’s signal contributions towards the success of the epic struggle for Indian freedom soon found recognition in the unique honor that the nation did him by electing him President of the Karachi Session of the Indian National congress held in 1931. It was an important session especially as it had to deal with the Gandhi-Irwin pact that had just been concluded and was presented before it for its ratification.

The Sardar gave the Congress a masterly lead on this issue. His Presidential address urged acceptance to the pact by way of trial. It, however, stressed the need for the nation to keep itself in readiness for action in case the Government proved false to its terms.

Second Civil Disobedience Movement: Such action became necessary in a matter of few months. Early in 1932 came the Second Civil Disobedience movement following continued repression in the country by the government in flagrant violation of the spirit and letter of the pact. Sardar Patel joined it and was, among the great leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, arrested at the very inception of the movement. He was now imprisoned for a long term.

First Chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Board: Not long after his release Patel became the first Chairman of the C.P. Board formed in 1934. The parliamentary sphere of congress politics offered the ‘Sardar of Bardoli’ new scope for the play of his genius as a practical politician. It brought into evidence some of the characteristic virtues of his masterful personality.

As the supreme leader of the Parliamentary Wing of the congress, the Sardar’s activity was the most intense from 1937 to 1940. During this period, the Congress was in office to work out the Provincial Autonomy Scheme of the New Constitution Act in seven out of eleven Indian Provinces. He had to keep a vigilant eye for this whole period on the behavior of the Congress Ministers and to guide them closely in all matters of policy.

In 1940 when Britain declared war against Germany on behalf of herself and her Indian dominion, the Congress strongly objected to it. Very soon, Sardar Patel as Chairman of the C.P. Board ordered the Congress Ministers out of office. This brought the Congress again into the field of Direct action.

‘Quit India’ Movement: Soon afterwards, Mahatma Gandhi started his ‘Quit India’ movement by having the Congress Working Committee pass a momentous resolution to that effect on August 8, 1942. Sardar Patel joined it by fully endorsing the Working Committee’s resolution.

On August 9, together with Gandhi and several other Congress leaders, he was arrested. He was put under detention at first in the Ahmednagar Fort, but later in the Agra Khan palace. In June 1945, sometimes after his release Sardar Patel, like other Congress leaders, was invited by Lord Wavell to have talks with him at Simla over a plan the Viceroy had got ready for the solution of the Indian political issue. The talks over the pain, however, failed.

In September 1946, Sardar Patel becomes a minister of the Indian Interim government formed then with Sri Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister.

The ‘Iron Man’ as Deputy Prime Minister of India: When power was transferred by the British to the Indian Union on August 15, 1947, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian ‘Iron Man’, became India’s Deputy Prime Minister and took charge of the Home and States Departments of the free Indian Government. In the administration of the Home Department, the Sardar’s one aim was stability. His success in this direction was great in spite of all the confusion and disorder peculiar to the state of transition through which India was passing then. For this, the Sardar’s very name came to be associated with the idea of stability.

In the States Department, the Sardar’s efforts were mainly directed towards the integration of India by bringing the Native States within the orbit of the Indian Union. His success in this was complete and spectacular.

Sudden Death: The hero of Bardoli passed away quietly on the morning of December 15, 1950 with the dignity for which he had been known throughout life. It was a great national loss mourned by all people in this country.

It would be difficult to find another leader like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who filled so many roles in the history of Modern India. As a patriot and fighter, he had no equal.

Sardar Patel was a great man, great in personality, great in performance – the constructive political leader in the history of Modern India.

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