Millennium Post

Whose Patel is he really?

These words weren’t Narendra Modi’s in 2013 but by JRD Tata in 1986. Modi, perhaps, copied from what Bharat Ratna Tata wrote. The unavoidable conclusion is that there are some thought leaders who felt that Jawaharlal Nehru had failed to build a strong India despite the unquestionable authority he enjoyed.

 Even in 1948, another prominent personality felt that way. Lord Mountbatten told Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Patel has his feet on the ground, while Nehru has his in the clouds.’ This was in the context of Patel’s resignation on Gandhi’s (and Nehru’s) insistence that the then Cabinet decision to withhold payment of Rs 55 crore to Pakistan should be rescinded. Gandhi unleashed his oft-used fast as a weapon to put pressure on Patel. Sardar relented but had sent in his resignation to Gandhi. Mountbatten had rushed to Gandhi to avoid a catastrophe, which was inevitable had Patel left the government. Never in the history of a nation-state the number two looked more important than the head of the government.

 For those who believe that Nehru and Patel had worked in harmony, like our Prime Minister’s speech writers do, a little reading will be useful. Like in any political situation there were several occasions of strong disagreements between Nehru and Patel. Kashmir, Hyderabad, Goa,Tibet were such issues. Nehru’s cloud-drive acted in opposition to Sardar’s firm root in the soil of India. In fact, this pragmatism of Patel had seen Congress accepting the partition of India in 1947. Judged from this historical role the Hindu brigade of RSS and its sister organisations should hate any mention of SardarVallabhbhai Patel.

 Yet Narendra Modi has been sort of telling all and sundry that Patel is his ‘role model.’ Wasn’t it Patel, who as the first home minister of India, who banned RSS after Mahatma’s assassination? How dare then Modi champion Sardar? If an article in a newspaper on how Patel had made RSS change its constitution can be a cause for making threat calls to the scribe, Narendra Modi should have been by now consigned in the Sabarmati. Either Modi is not the choice of RSS or Nagpur does not watch TV and read nothing but The Hindu!

 But that is irrelevant and a digression here. The point is the ‘harmonious’ relationship between Patel and Nehru and their stand on secularism. Patel was branded as communal Hindu. Recall what Sardar had said, ‘The idea that I am anti-Muslim is an invention made to discredit me… Of course, I hate Muslim League..I have known nothing so poisonous as the teaching of Jinnah and the Muslim League that it is impossible for the Hindus and the Muslims to live together. It is a horrible thing to preach. It is also false, but could be so easily true if persisted in day after day.’ Evidently, the newfound champions of Patel, from among Nehru’s secular brigade, did not have time to read Patel, busy as they are in providing inputs to Nehru’s great-grandson.

 According to Patel ‘a minority that could force the partition of the country is not a minority at all.’ He believed, as much as Jayaprakash Narayan who said in 1967, ‘the healing of the hearts and minds will not depend only upon the behaviour of the majority community.’

 Patel was Gandhi’s right hand man. Not that he was always on the same page as Gandhi particularly on issues between Hindus and Muslims. With Nehru, too, he disagreed. Despite Patel’s warnings, Nehru blinded by his form of secularism proved disastrous for India. Hyderabad could have been another Kashmir had Patel not decided to act despite the Prime Minister’s intention of taking the issue to the global forum. In his memoir, a former bureaucrat MKK Nair said to have mentioned that Nehru was furious with Patel for his Hyderabad decision. But the fact remains that Patel had obtained cabinet approval before moving in to Hyderabad. Patel never crossed the laxmanrekha of his responsibility. But Nehru did, like extending financial assistance to Sheikh Abdullah. Nehru also shifted Kashmir to the foreign ministry under his charge from Patel’s states department. When Nehru decided to take Kashmir issue to the United Nations, Patel was in Assam. Goa was under foreign ministry since that meant relations with Portugal. Patel wanted to complete the process of integration of Goa, Daman and Diu but did not since Nehru had shown no interest.

 Patel had resigned twice. First time he had sent his resignation letter to Gandhi. That was when Mountbatten rushed to Mahatma to seek his support in stopping Patel from quitting. On the fateful morning of 30 January, Gandhi met Patel to discuss the issue. When Gandhi was assassinated Patel sent in his resignation to Nehru accepting the failure to defend Bapu. Nehru knew better and knew who could save the situation from turning worse. In fact he had to seek Patel’s intervention when carnage on Hindus in the then East Pakistan saw refugees crossing into West Bengal. Similar atrocities by rajakaars in Nizam’s Hyderabad had seen Hindus fleeing into Madhya Pradesh. The then home minister of Madhya Pradesh D P Mishra briefed Patel on the flaring up of communal sentiments in his state. This led Patel to take ‘police action’ and send General JayantaChaudhury to Hyderabad. Clearly, Patel was not a ‘blind secularist’ like Nehru but a practical administrator. There is no reason to believe that Patel, too, was secular as Nehru professed. The speechwriters of PM Singh did not read history.

 All will not appreciate everything Patel did. His role in ousting Subhas Bose from the Congress presidentship in 1938 by controlling the purse strings might not be music to many. His role in helping Purushottam Das Tandon win as Congress president in 1950 against the wishes of Nehru was another such instance. Tandon represented the pro-Hindu lobby in Congress. On both occasions Patel bailed out Congress – the Gandhian Congress in 1938 and the Nehruvian one in 1950.  His deft move on Tandon had seen that the Hindu nationalists were neutralised in the election thereafter. What can we say on Kashmir, the most glaring failure since Patel’s time? M N Roy summed it up succinctly. ‘ ..once the dice were cast by the gambler’s megalomania, the Sardar had no choice but to play the game; but one could be sure that he loathes the stupidity clothed in the glamour of popular heroes.’ Patel and Nehru had no differences said our Prime Minister, an appointee of Nehru’s family members.

The author is a communication consultant
Next Story
Share it