Reviving A Great Story

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Nov 2018 09:50:30



Kevadia (Guj), October 31 (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the 182-meter tall statue of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel as a monument to the contribution of the great leader to the national cause. He used the occasion to slam those who were criticising him for building such a memorial. He asked if any crime was being perpetrated by creating a memorial to one of the national heroes ...

THIS question by the Prime Minister does not respond just to political criticism but also makes sure that the nation is reminded of the great worth of the work of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, the country’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Mr. Modi’s question also expresses certain exasperation he has been feeling about the manner of political accusations some sections of the political community are heaping on him. In the light of the dedication of the ‘Statue of Unity’ to the nation, Mr. Modi has raised the question in the most appropriate manner.

In fact, those who have criticised the Prime Minister and the Government for creating the world’s tallest statue as memorial to Sardar Patel need to be reminded of the contribution the great leader has made to the national cause. That he ensured that India’s further disintegration was avoided soon after Independence, was only one of the many important facets of Sardar Patel’s contribution. Details of that massive exercise are just mindboggling. Even as he brokered negotiated settlements with Princely States, Sardar Patel used not just smart arguments, but did not hesitate to remind the Princes that he would not mind using force. And in two cases, he actually did -- in Hyderabad and in Junagarh -- to ensure that the two States merged with the Indian Union. And the special part of that action was that Sardar Patel made it possible in the face of stiff opposition to the idea within the Government.

But then, there were many other glorious facets of Sardar Patel’s contribution to the national cause. His emergence in national politics came through the massive farmers’ agitation he led in Bardoli, seeking justice to agriculture as a critical sector of the national economy. Subsequently also, as he became a leading light of the Government of free India, Vallabbhai Patel kept harping upon the farmers’ rights as the State’s fundamental responsibility. For, he was the man who was rooted in the ground and understood the reality at that level. Not only did he keep insisting upon fulfillment of the State’s responsibility towards the last and the least man, but also kept pressuring Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on that count.

What we see and know as the Amul phenomenon was actually an outcome of a Swadeshi movement launched by Sardar Patel and his associates including his brother to offer an alternative to a British company named Polson that made a great fortune in dairy industry. It was that early effort to offer an alternative to Polson that Sardar Patel and his associates gave to the country an altogether self-reliant model to boost rural economy. Unfortunately, this aspect of his contribution was never allowed to come up for people to recall forever. And to say the least, that happened as part of a political machination.

Another aspect of Sardar Patel’s work as a leader of the Government was as regards China and Pakistan. He kept telling Mr. Nehru time and again, through speeches, conversations as well as official letters that India was making a lot of mistakes while dealing with China and needed to change its perspective on the hostile neighbour. It was he who warned Pandit Nehru about the possibilities of a Chinese invasion. He also kept insisting upon course correction as regards Kashmir, an advice Pandit Nehru chose to ignore. Rest is history, as they say.

These details had their invariable political dimensions, however hidden from public eye. When India’s freedom struggle was at its peak, the Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi had two young leaders -- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, both handsome, popular and intellectuals of high order. After Netaji’s exit from the national scene when he formed the Indian National Government in exile, people considered Sardar Patel as another centre of power within national politics, a fact that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru did not appreciate as he saw a potential rival in Sardar Patel.

The whole nation grieved that Gandhiji favoured Pandit Nehru and asked Sardar Patel to step aside when India became free. Subsequently, Sardar Patel did not last long, after which there was almost a systematic effort not to allow the nation to cherish his memories in a pronounced manner. Though it did complete the formality of remembering Sardar Patel annually, the Congress party did precious little to bring to perpetuate his memory. Even worse, keen observers of national politics suspected a very planned effort to erase the memory of Sardar Patel from public domain.

The creation of the ‘Statue of Unity’ as a memorial to Sardar Patel has disturbed those very sections of Indian people who participated in that unholy exercise of wiping out the memory of man who kept India away from disintegration. Prime Minister Mr. Narenda Modi’s question whether a crime has been committed by erecting the Statue of Unity refers to all that undesirable politics.

However, the dedication of the statue to the nation has offered the people an opportunity to remind themselves of the work of great worth made possible by Sardar Patel. He was not just a visionary with dreamy eyes, but a practical leader who believed in doing rather than talking. He was also a man of the masses whom people worshipped as almost a demi-god.