Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel - The Iron Man of India

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Biography

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, formed the Indian Triumvirate that gave India her unity which she had lost centuries ago. Sardar provided realism to Nehru's idealism in national and international affairs.

Sardar Patel a Nationalist, a noted Barrister, an activist, an administrator and the first home minister of Independent India. This man is nothing less than a downpour of praise for his immense efforts in bringing together of over 500 princely states into Indian union. Though strewn with many hurdles, he only strengthened his resolve in the unification of the native or princely states. His pivotal role in the unification conferred on him as the “Iron Man of India”. He is also called the “Patron Saint” of India for his contribution in the field of Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and Indian Police Services (IPS) services with the introduction of a new modern system. Impressed with the fine timbre of Gandhi he imbibed upon his principles and ideologies in the making of India.

Sardar Patel United India

Early Life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was born on 31st of October 1875,Sardar Vallabhbhai School Boy Nadiad Bombay Presidency, British India (now Nadiad, Kaira district of Gujarat, India). He went to the primary school at Karamsad. VallabhBhai’s childhood was spent not in Nadiad but in Karamsad, 12 miles north where his father Zaverbhai Patel a farmer and mother Ladbai. Vallabhbhai’s parents had six children, Vallabhbhai was the fourth.

At the age of 22 he passed his metric and later qualified as a District Pleaders in the year 1900 after studying with borrowed books. He stood down in favour of his elder brother Vittal Bhai, indeed he paid his brother's expenses with the money he had saved for his own. While he was pleading for a man accused of murder, Vallabhbhai received a telegram informing him of his wife's death; he put the telegram in his pocket and continued with the case. In his own words “one life is gone let me save another” the man was acquitted. When his brother returned from England it was time for Vallabhbhai to go. Vallabhbhai left for England and was admitted to Middle Temple Inn and returned to India in 1913. He turned down the job of lecturer in a Government Law school and instead set up practice in Ahmedabad and became a noted criminal lawyer. When he actually set out for his barrister ship to England, he was a man already 35 years of age.

About him, Nehru said

History will record many pages and call him the builder and consolidator of the New India. By many of us, he will be remembered as a great captain of our forces in the struggle for freedom and as one who gave us sound advice both in times of trouble and in moments of victory; a friend and colleague and comrade on whom one could invariably rely, as a tower of strength which revived wavering hearts when we were in trouble.

Role of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's in India's Unification

Sardar Patel and Gandhi

When Vallabhbhai returned from England and set up a successful practice as a criminal lawyer, He was a member of the Gujarat club. At this juncture his interest in politics was minimal. In 1915, an event of staggering importance took place, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, arrived on the Indian national scene from South Africa with his new weapon of Satyagraha. Vallabhbhai greeted this news with skepticism. One day when Gandhi arrived to address a meeting in the Gujarat club, Vallabh bhai like many others would soon be irrevocably drawn into Gandhi's magnetism, his ideologies and principles. In 1917, he was elected as the secretary of the Gujarat Sabha.

Sardar Patel and Gandhi Ji

The freedom movement was intensified in 1920 after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar without any provocation, the British troops opened fire on a peaceful crowd killing and wounding hundreds of men, women and children. Gandhi gave a call for the countrywide Non-cooperation movement and boycott of all foreign goods. The spinning wheel became the symbol of the struggle for freedom. Like many other congressmen, Vallabbhai now began to wear homespun Khadhi. Carrying of the Congress flag was banned by the British in Nagpur. Vittal Bhai and Vallabhbhai went to Nagpur and led the flag Satyagraha which was a roaring success.

The Bardoli Satyagraha of 1928 - Gujarat

In 1928, Bardoli a place in Gujarat faced with floods and famine and the farmers were in distress. They meagerly could afford a meal. The British government had increased the revenue tax on land by 30% when all appeals to bring it down fell on deaf ears. Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to the governor of Bombay to reduce the tax but in vain. Instead the British Government put up a date for the collection of taxes. In return Vallabhbhai Patel organized the Bardoli-Satyagraha. The men and women of Bardoli launched a movement of complete Non-cooperation or complete civil disobedience. When the people refused to pay the land tax, their land was forfeited and cattle seized. Many of them went to jail in spite of intimidation and confiscation of land and cattle. The people of Bardoli remained firm in their action.

Sardar patel - bardoli satyagraha

The movement was successful and the British government reverted back to the old revenue rates. It was from the time of the Bardoli-Satyagraha that Vallabhbhai Patel came to be known as the “Sardar”-The Leader. With the success of Bardoli, Vallabhbhai the hero of the hour was the natural choice for the president of Karachi session of National congress in 1931. Vallabhbhai Patel in his speech said “Swaraj (independence) is our goal. There cannot be the slightest modification of that goal”

British were infuriated and arrested Vallabhbhai only later on to be released in 1934.

Role of Sardar in Quit India movement and Partition

On the 8th of August 1942, the Quit India resolution was passed by the Congress in Bombay, speaking on the resolution Sardar Patel said that India could not tolerate slavery anymore. Mahatma Gandhi clarified the Indians stand was not a quarrel with the British people but to fight their policy. The very same night all national leaders were arrested. Sardar found himself along with Nehru, Azad, Kriplani and others in the Ahmednagar jail. Sardar spent nearly 30 months in jail. Apparently leaderless nation continued Gandhi's Non-violent war. Patel in his words said, "We shall fight all those who come in the way of India's freedom." Reprisals followed, more than a thousand people were shot dead and more than three thousand grievously injured over a hundred thousand people went to jail, never in history had there been mass civil disobedience on such a scale. When the war in Europe ended all national leaders were released, they were invited to Simla by the Viceroy Lord Wavell to discuss constitutional changes, and unfortunately the meeting broke down because of differences between the Congress and the Muslim League.

Congress won an overwhelming majority in the central Assembly and in eight provinces. The bitter rift between the Muslim League and the Congress could not be bridged, the cabinet mission proposed its own solution. A constituent assembly came into being and an interim government was formed by Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel was in charge of Home Affairs & Information and Broadcasting. Eventually the Muslim League joined the interim government with Liaquat Ali Khan in charge of Finance but the Muslim League continued to agitate for the creation of Pakistan. There were communal riots all over the country. Partition became inevitable, Lord Mountbatten was the new Viceroy it was decided by all the parties concerned the transfer of power would take place on August 15 1947 to two independent Dominions. In independent India's first government Sardar Patel became the Home Minister. He was faced with a tremendous law and order problem and the problem of millions of refugees escaping from Pakistan. In his own words “Let us get on with the job in the hope that we will do it well and the face that despite the shock the whole organization has received from the recent disturbances we shall acquit ourselves creditably in one of the great rescue projects of history”. Sardar Patel now set out to integrate over 500 princely states into the Indian Union.

The Iron Man of India (Steel Man of India)

He is also called Bismarck of India -- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Journey of building Nation) also called Patron saint.

Our history has taught us one great truth “Great freedom comes with great responsibilities and greater challenges”.

In 1947 Mother India gained her long-awaited independence. 565 princely states were undecided about joining the interim and progressing to form a third Dominion. Their separation could have destroyed our nation even before we got an opportunity to build it. India was crumbling and it was in a desperate need of a uniting force. During these critical times Sardar the legendary leader, became the symbol of unity.

We are at a momentous state in the history of India. By common endeavor we can raise the country to a new greatness, while lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities. No one can segregate us into segments. I invite my friends, the rulers of States, and their people to the council's of Constituent Assembly in a joint endeavor, inspired by common elegance to our Motherland for the common good of us all - Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

These words of Sardar Patel addressing princes of native states exemplified his strength as a uniting leader. The Sardar convinced all the states to join in with the exception of Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad.

The history of integration of princely states stands as a testament to the strength of his character. During those critical times Sardar served as a rightist leader. The Iron Man of India operated with an iron fist under a velvet glove. Using useful methods of persuasion, promising handsome privy purses and sometimes strict administrative measures, Sardar succeeded in merging 565 princely states into the Indian Union without any bloodshed.

Sardar Patel’s historic journey of nation-building began with significant southern states. These states formed the foundation of consolidated India. Travancore and Cochin, the twin states were strategically located in southwest portion of the Indian Peninsula, they were blessed with nature's abundance a substantial coastline and ancient maritime tradition both were progressive states with exemplary administration highest literacy rate and proliferating industrialization.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Iron Man of India

Sardar highly valued the significance of these states. Ironically, the twin states of Travancore and Cochin were absolutely different in their approaches, while Cochin instantly joined the Indian Union, Travancore persistently rebelled against it. Maharaja of Cochin Shri Kerala Varma, was impressed by the far-fetched vision of Sardar Patel. Cochin became the first of the states to send its elected representatives to the Constituent Assembly and soon after this the Maharaja granted full responsible government a step, which was applauded throughout the country.

This significant success boosted everyone's morale and then Sardar never looked back until all the states were consolidated to Mother India. C.P Ramaswami Iyer, the Diwan of Travancore. A stalwart occupied a center stage in politics during the “Home Rule Movement”. Sardar Patel with his diplomatic finesse wrote a friendly letter to C.P Iyer and tried to reach an amicable solution, but in vain. After a long drawn battle of difference of opinions between C.P Iyer and Sardar, Travancore finally decided to join the Union. Eventually C.P Iyer along with many of the leaders realized that it was almost impossible to stay untouched by Sardar’s magnanimous honour. Sardar's integrity during the procedure of transference rely impressed C. P. Ramaswami Iyer.

C. P. Ramaswami Iyer wrote to Sardar

I convey to you my sincere felicitations, over the forthright and unequivocal policy adopted and maintained by you in the present time of crisis and momentous decisions. I have deferred from you on several occasions but cannot refrain from paying my tribute to the consummate talents of leadership manifested by you.

As time passed C. P. Ramaswami Iyer praised Sardar and he also ensured C.P Iyer’s role in Travancore governance was never denigrated.

The unification of Travancore and Cochin was inaugurated on 1st of July 1949, on this occasion Sardar pulled his heart out by saying

It has been my proud privilege and unique pleasure to find among the princess of Travancore and Cochin and the people, a willingness to make sacrifices in the cause of the country.

Eventually, on 1st November 1956, the state of Kerala was created in more consolidated form. The architecture of independent India began with the integration of southern states and gradually all the princely states unified. Many issues emerged during the implementation stages. Sardar was faced with key choices of deciding the capital finalizing the Privy purses and so on. Sardar strategically dealt with each and every issue and resolved a mountain of differences in practically no time. The charismatic and popular visionary of India who downed the mantle of Prime Minister, became independent India's Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Sardar Vallabhbhai passed away on the 15th of December 1950, leaving behind him a legacy of selflessness courage and determination. The integration of princely states was perhaps the greatest achievement in the life of Sardar Patel.

Useful Information

  • Also called as the Bismarck of India. Which refers to the German chancellor Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck who united Germany (1815-1898) in the same way as did Vallabhbhai for India.
  • His birthday is celebrated as “Rashtriya Ekta Diwas” or “National Unity Day” inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 as a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • Awarded Bharat Ratna highest civilian award of the country posthumously in the year 1991.
  • Alma Mater- Middle Temple Inn, England.
  • Children - Manniben Patel and Dahyabhai Patel.
  • Elected as the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahemadabad in 1917.
  • Elected as the Muncipal President of Ahemadabad on 1922, 1924 and finally in 1927.
  • Elected as the President of the Karachi Session of Indian National Congress in 1931.
  • He was at the forefront in leading the Congress' all India election campaign in 1934 and 1937.
  • Was arrested in 1930 in Ras village of Borsad taluka just before the Dandi March for disobeying the orders of a local magistrate form addressing a gathering. He was imprisoned for 3 months in Sabarmati Central jail.
  • Thrust as a prominent leader in organizing the Quit India Movementin 1942. He was arrested prior to the Quit India Movement and was released in 1945.
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