The inauguration of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue—the Statue of Unity—in Gujarat on October 31 by the prime minister has raised the hackles of the whining, carping bunch of malcontents of the Nehruvian and Marxist mould who question the wisdom of erecting a statue—incidentally the tallest in the world—at a huge cost. But these complaints must be brushed aside because we owe our very existence as a nation to Sardar Patel. There are a lot more reasons as well—many of which were hidden by sarkari historians owing allegiance to a single political family. Here are some of them.
When the British left the country, they gave all the princely states three options—to declare their independence, accede to India or accede to Pakistan. To get such a motley group of over 550 maharajas and rajas—many of whom were on their own ego trips—to sign on the dotted line and become part of India was a Herculean task. However, Patel’s steely determination, combined with his diplomacy and foresight, enabled him to get the princes to sign the Instrument of Accession.
The Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of Junagadh had wanted to remain independent or to accede to Pakistan and a couple of maharajas in central India were keen to retain their independence. Patel put his foot down, sent in the armed forces when necessary and got these states integrated into India. “I do not want undigested lumps in India’s belly”, he is reported to have said in the context of Hyderabad becoming part of Pakistan.
The then PM Jawaharlal Nehru was not happy with the use of force, but the truth is that if ‘Iron Man’ Patel were not around at that time, no one would have been able to counter Nehru’s pusillanimity and the map of India would have been in tatters on the very day of her Independence.
Is this not sufficient reason for building the Statue of Unity?
Apart from being tough as nails while dealing with issues relating to national unity, Patel had another extraordinary quality—his readiness to sacrifice for the larger cause. There is abundant evidence to show that he was the very epitome of selflessness, in contrast to the pettiness and selfishness of Nehru. On Gandhi’s advice, Patel had to forego the opportunity to head the Congress on many occasions including 1929, 1936 and 1946 and make way for Nehru.
In 1946, it was clear that the person elected head of the Congress would be invited by the British to be the first prime minister of independent India. The party asked 15 Pradesh Congress Committees to propose names for the office; 12 of the 15 committees voted for Sardar Patel. The remaining three committees had no opinion. The story goes that Nehru went into a sulk and told Gandhi that he would not play second fiddle to anybody! Gandhi stepped in once again on behalf of Nehru and got Patel to withdraw from the contest.
Thus, although his party overwhelmingly wanted him to be the first PM after Independence, Patel sacrificed this for the sake of the party and national unity. Historians loyal to the Nehru-Gandhis have tried to hide these facts from the people all these years. So, for those who ask why spend so much on Patel’s statue, the answer is: “Is this not sufficient reason to remember the Sardar in the most memorable way possible?”
As against Patel’s large-heartedness, we now have evidence of how small-minded and spiteful Nehru was when dealing with Patel. When Patel died on 15 December 1950 in Mumbai, he directed officials from Delhi not to attend Patel’s funeral in Mumbai. Even more shocking was the first order he issued after the Sardar’s demise—that Patel’s official car be returned to the foreign ministry forthwith. More was to follow. The best example of Nehru’s small-mindedness relates to the Bharat Ratna. Nehru’s government gave the Bharat Ratna to Nehru in 1955! Sardar Patel was conferred the Bharat Ratna by the Chandra Shekhar government in 1991.
Further, while the Nehru-Gandhis have helped themselves to much of Lutyens’ geography, Nehru treated Patel’s daughter Maniben in the most insensitive manner when she met him after Patel’s death. In his memoirs, Verghese Kurien, the father of the milk revolution, tells us how shabbily Nehru treated her. After Patel died, Maniben picked up a book and a bag that belonged to him and went to meet Nehru. Patel had instructed her to hand them over to Nehru.
The bag contained `35 lakh that belonged to the Congress and the book was the party’s book of accounts. Nehru took them and thanked her. “Maniben waited expectantly, hoping he would say something more, but he did not, so she got up and left.” He did not even enquire as to how she was doing after the passing of Patel. Kurien found Nehru’s behaviour “distressing”.
Many years ago, this writer had put together a list of 450 government schemes, projects and institutions named after just three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family. This included a majority of social welfare schemes of the Union government, airports, national parks, educational and scientific institutions, and sports tournaments. Nothing was left out. Yet, all those party to this vulgar display of sycophancy are unhappy that the man who gave us the India we live in today is being honoured in a manner which is worthy of his stupendous effort.
Therefore, the time has come for India to make adequate reparation for the pettiness displayed by Nehru and his progeny towards Sardar Patel, the greatest son of India. The Statue of Unity is now a reality because of the Patel-like determination and commitment of PM Narendra Modi to give the Sardar his due. Modi must ignore these critics and take further initiatives like introducing the real Sardar to school children through history books. He must then begin the next big project to provide another extraordinary national hero—Subhas Chandra Bose—his rightful place. Bose too has been a victim of the chicanery of ‘establishment historians’. The nation will always remember Modi for ensuring that India will eternally be grateful to its real heroes.