Sardar Patel: The ‘Prime Minister’ of India who never was!

Gujarat has produced some of the greatest leaders our country has ever seen. One amongst them is Sardar Vallabhai Patel- the Iron Man of India. History books don’t glorify Sardar Patel and even if they do, he always ends up playing second fiddle to Gandhi & Nehru. Maulana Azad “India wins Freedom” which had all these withheld portions that Maulana had desired to be published. Congress leaders challenged the release of the withheld positions of the book. Thankfully the costs did not interfere with the publication.

MaulanaAzad book “India wins freedom” exposes the Congress party thoroughly.  The book speaks about the all powerful high command and the death of internal democracy within the party. After losing the 1937 general elections, the Muslim league decided to take on the Congress.  They were determined to polarise on religious lines. MK Gandhi appointed Maulana AbulKalam Azad as the next congress president with an intention to pacify the Muslim League. The appointment was done in 1940, just a couple of months before the Lahore resolution, for the creation of a new country Pakistan.

As the war was coming to an end, it was clear that India’s Independence was not far. It was also clear that the Congress Government, who would be invited to form the interim government at the centre (since congress had won the 1946 general election). The post of party president had suddenly increased its stake at the national level. Once the election for post of Congress President was announced, Maulana Azad expressed his desire for re-election. Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Azad stating that it would not be proper. Maharashtra Gandhi always had a soft spot for Nehru.

However despite Gandhi’s open support for Nehru, the Congress party mostly wanted Sardar Patel to be the next Congress president. This would also mean that Patel would go on to become the first Prime Minister of India. Most of the Congress party members considered Patel to be a great executive, organiser and leader. Patel was probably one of the few leaders who was well aware of the grassroots politics in India.

12 of the 15 Pradesh committees had nominated Sardar Patel. The Congress Pradesh committees are the only legal bodies having power to nominate and elect the party president. Gandhi was aware of the fact that Nehru was not nominated by even one Pradesh committee. The remaining 3 committees had not nominated anyone. However, once Nehru’s name was formally proposed, Sardar Patel was asked to withdraw his nomination. It was Gandhi who had intervened and asked Patel to step down.

Dr Rajendra Prasad lamented that Gandhi had once again sacrificed his loyalist for the sake of the ‘glamorous’ Nehru.  Dr Prasad also feared that Nehru would follow the British way. Dr Rajendra Prasad had used the phrase ‘once again’ indicating the denial of post of President of the Congress party to Patel on earlier occasions in 1929, 1937 & 1946. On all the occasions Nehru was given the preference. Also Gandhi knew that Sardar Patel wanted to serve the nation more than anything.

Sardar Patel was already 71 when all this drama unfolded.  Nehru was 56. But the point was not seniority. It was love for the nation and greater administrative capabilities, which were Patel’s plus points over Nehru. Maulana Abul KalamAzad who was considered a close confidante of Nehru and had issued a statement on 26th April 1946 to elect Nehru as Congress president, later termed the elevation of Nehru as the biggest blunder he had ever made.  It was a decision that was regretful.

One month after the election the Viceroy invited Nehru as Congress president to form an interim Government. If Gandhi had not interfered, Patel would have been the first De – facto Prime Minister. Sardar was robbed of the ‘prize’ but it didn’t make a difference to him. It made a huge difference to the nation. Leadership is also about being selfless. Patel was the greater patriot. P.M Modi has brought back the legacy of Sardar Patel which had been undermined by the Congress for over six decades. ‘Rashtriya Ekta Divas, Modi ji’s tribute to Sardar Patel resurrects a vibrant message to young India.

Source: sanskritimagazine.com

Alok Shetty