Monday, October 31, 2016

The Iron Man who united modern India - a salute

Today is India's Iron Man - Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's - birth anniversary, and his amazing achievements need to be understood in the context of the complex background he was working in.

The Britishers came into south Asia as traders, became our rulers, looted us for 200 years with all enthusiasm and sowed seeds of discontent and struggle that we are forced to live with till date. The central pillar of their rule over such a huge land with massive diversity was simple - break Indian unity by nurturing selfish kings and princes, while defanging their military strength systematically and giving them a dream of a bright future. Today's Rajya Sabha itself came into being as a Council for such Princes, where they would meet together under British supervision.

As the fires of independence struggle started burning bright, the British were sure of one thing - once they left, India would simply balkanise (break apart) into hundreds of pieces. They knew it as they saw no single Party or individual capable enough of tying the huge land into one thread of unity. The rulers had no idea that a man whose vision was broader than Bismarck and skills sharper than Robert Clive and Warren Hastings combined, was waiting in the wings.

Here is one of the many maps of the India when Britishers left in 1947. The complexity of the situation and immensity of the task of unification could have driven anyone crazy.,

(this is one of the many maps available)

Quick facts :
  • Vallabhbhai Patel (October 31, 1875 – December 15, 1950), the "Iron Man of India"
  • Born at Nadiad, Gujarat
  • Parents : Father Jhaverbhai, a farmer, and mother Laad Bai, Wife : Jhaberaba, who passed away at a very early age, Children : Daughter Maniben (Born in 1904); Son Dahyabhai (Born in 1905)
  • Death : December 15, 1950
  • Called "Sardar" which means "Chief" or "Leader"
  • Had a successful legal practice when he was inspired by the work of Mahatma Gandhi
  • Patel organised the peasants of Kheda, Borsad, and Bardoli in Gujarat in a non-violent civil disobedience movement against oppressive policies imposed by the British Raj
  • Rose to the leadership of the Indian National Congress
  • Promoted the Quit India movement
  • First Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India
  • Organised relief for refugees in Punjab and Delhi, and led efforts to restore peace across the nation
  • Patel led from the front when it came to creating a united India from the 565 semi-autonomous princely states and British-era colonial provinces - his biggest achievement
  • Soon after the Indian Independence, the 565 princely states started dreaming independence, as in the pre-British era, and argued that the government of free India should treat them as equals.
  • Sardar Patel applied open talk, diplomacy, force, military power, and ultimately enabled the accession of almost every princely state. The hollow threats of most Nawabs and Kings were laid bare as Sardar quelled whatever little opposition arose. 
  • He is called "Patron Saint" of India's civil servants for establishing modern all-India services
  • One of the earliest proponents of property rights and free enterprise in India.
  • The Champion of Suraaj

[ Following is an excerpt from a previous article I wrote on a similar topic ]

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Historians have always harped upon the difference in approach adopted by Nehru and Patel. As a hypothetical question, let us suppose that Pandit Nehru did not become the first PM of India. What would have happened?

This answer is based on pure speculation. Kindly bear.
India if Sardar Patel were to become the first PM, and continued for some years -
Sardar Patel BrightSparks blog Sandeep Manudhane SM sir Indore PT
Pakistan to the UN? Never!
  1. Having integrated India, he would have gone real heavy on the Kings and Princes that played the fool during the process of integration. Their falling-in-line would have been ensured very fast.
  2. He would have made them pay the price pretty quickly - the Privy Purses would have been abolished perhaps by 1955 itself (rather than in 1971 as done by Indira Gandhi) [ Privy Purse in India ]
  3. The private banking industry in India would have collapsed due to this pretty fast, and nationalisation would've happened by 1960 itself. 
  4. The Congress may have seen a vertical split right after the First General Elections. The faction led by Pandit Nehru would have posed a huge challenge to Patel's leadership.
  5. The Kashmir issue would have taken a different shape altogether - it would never have been internationalised, and no appeal to the UN would ever be made. Bilateral would have meant completely Unilateral!
  6. Pakistan would have thought once more before pushing the tribal forces into Kashmir in 1948.
  7. Bye bye NAM.
  8. Bye bye Personal Law System. Welcome Uniform Civil Code.
  9. Perhaps India would have discovered Netaji Bose's real whereabouts in the 1950s.(Warning - pure, heavily loaded speculation)
  10. Goa would have been in India by 1952 at the most :)
  11. Perhaps no IITs and IIMs but more of regionally empowered institutions
India if Netaji Bose were to become the first PM, and continued for some years -   (assuming he came back victorious after the armed conflicts)
Netaji Bose Sardar Patel BrightSparks blog Sandeep Manudhane SM sir Indore PT
Bose believed in strong central rule
  1. Netaji was pretty clear in his head - a free India needed 10 to 20 years of an strong centrally authoritarian rule to develop fast.
  2. We would not have had the Constitution in its present form at all. The Constituent Assembly would have worked very differently, producing a remarkably State-power-laden document.
  3. The Congress would have revolted against this move, and an internal chaos would have caused either heavy-handed suppression, or Netaji would have simply outlawed Congress.
  4. Family planning and population control measures would have been instituted strongly.
  5. Women empowerment would be ages ahead of what it's even now - he had made a whole Rani Jhansi regiment, remember?  [ Rani of Jhansi Regiment ]
  6. He would not have thought much about aligning with the Socialist-Communist world, while retaining Indian identity.
  7. Bye bye NAM.
  8. Bye bye Personal Law System. Welcome Uniform Civil Code.
  9. The national anthem / song would've been different [ Subh Sukh Chain ]
  10. Goa would have voluntarily appealed for joining the Indian Union :) :)
  11. As for Pakistan, there would be perhaps none.
  12. A huge speculation - If Japan were not to be defeated AND Netaji became the PM then - Japan's influence on India's polity would have been not insignificant.
Some things that would've remained same irrespective of who became the first PM
  1. Our need for capital for investment and growth would be huge.
  2. Our agriculture would keep struggling till Dr M S Swaminathan would've come along, [ M. S. Swaminathan ] of course, after Dr Norman Borlaugh's pioneering work  [ Norman Borlaug ]
  3. The Indian Military would've taken more or less the same shape.
  4. Social and cultural practices of most of India would be the same.,

So here's a salute to the Iron Man of India who gave us the nation we know today.


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