Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – The Iron man of India

“Nobody likes the division of India and my heart is heavy. But the choice is between one division and many divisions. We must face facts. We cannot give way to emotionalism and sentimentality. We have 75 to 80 percent of India, which we can make strong with our own genius. The (Muslim) league can develop the rest of the country” – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on Partition.

Such a practical, compassionate and down-to-earth opinion on a very sensitive subject like Partition! But what Patel, Gandhi and any other leader did not anticipate is the scale of the riots that eventually took place due to partition. The character and leadership of a responsible statesman is tested during tough times and handling the crisis of Partition of India, was as tough as it could get.

Fortunately, India was in the hands of the son of its soil – Sardar Vallabhai Patel, who played an important role in both getting Independence and securing independence.

Perhaps the younger generation doesn’t understand what it takes to fight and negotiate with a powerful entity. While Gandhi appealed to the conscience of the Britishers through his Satyagraha and Non-violence,  Vallabhbhai Patel focused on creating and nurturing a powerful & organized resistance, conforming to the non-violent principles articulated by Gandhi and united the masses of various castes, religions, etc.

Be it organizing the mass agitation of the people of Gujarat and encouraging them not to pay any taxes to the British Government as a protest against hiking of taxes during famine, or be it organizing the masses to fight for the right to hoist the Indian flag at public ceremonies during the British rule. Guess what happened? In both the cases, British Government called him for negotiations, and accepted his demand!

Of course, he was arrested for three years from 1942 to 1945 for being among the organizing forces of the Civil Disobedience/ Quit India movement. This movement was fierce and convinced the Britishers that they no longer enjoyed the popularity of the people they came to rule. Of course, the war and the subsequent weakening of British forces only made it worser.

Ultimately India did get Independence, but was torn into two pieces. But fortunately just two pieces – The 565 Princely states that were in the Indian territory could decide if they want to accede to India, Pakistan or be Independent. It could have been worse!

At this time, it seems Gandhi said to Patel, “The problem of the states is so difficult that you alone could solve it”. How right was he? It took Patel’s flamboyant diplomacy to convince almost all the states to fall in line. All the tricks in the book were used – Lobbying, Meeting the princes at social gatherings, calling them to Delhi for a dialogue, invoking their patriotism, making them understand that people want to have a united India, and yes – the threat to use force.

The master negotiator, who had earlier won accolades even from British officials for his style of diplomacy did not have much problems in getting the consent of almost all the rulers of the princely states. Almost all, because three big states were still out of the cohesion – Jammu & Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad.

While J&K was ‘personally’ handled by Nehru, the soldiers of Indian union occupied Junagadh without much problems. A plebiscite held in the region confirmed that more than 99% of the people wanted to accede to India. Perhaps only the King had a different opinion!

It took a full scale battle to bring Hyderabad province under the union. It seems Vallabhbhai Patel ordered forces to march into Hyderabad in his official capacity as  the Deputy to the Prime Minister (and acting PM), when Nehru was on a tour to Europe. Fortunately for us, that was a timely tour!

Its easy to stall any negotiation by creating a I-win You-lose check mate. But it takes a real leader to instill the confidence even among opponents to achieve a Win-Win result. The difficult struggle for Independence created such leaders of character, caliber and dedication like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He was rightly referred to as the ‘Iron Man’ of India.

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The Government of Gujarat is trying to build the tallest statue on earth – The Statue of Unity, which is actually a statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel as he was the person who united India. I wish them all the best in their endeavor.

Reference: Wikipedia article on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

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29 Replies to “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – The Iron man of India”

  1. I always admired Vallabhbhai Patel. He should have become the PM and many of the leaders wanted him to become the PM. Gandhi preferred Nehru, as far as I remember. He would have solved Jammu-Kashmir problem smoothly. Our bad luck.

    Thanks for writing about Patel and am happy to know that Modi is building a huge statue for our great leader.

      1. I am experimenting with a new plugin called CommentLuv which automatically adds the blogger’s latest post after their comment. It will help others have a look at the topic, and if they are interested in it, they can visit your blog.

        By default its enabled but if you don’t want it, you have to click on the ‘tick mark’ that appears right below ‘Post Comment’ button (basically you need to uncheck the box) before you post your comment. I am also not able to delete it! Next time you comment, you can decide. But I think its a good feature – It helps other visitors to discover new content/blogs.

    1. Thanks for your first paragraph. I wanted to write the same content myself but held it back! I have a lot of respect for Sardar Vallabbhai Patel. I hope our administrators of these days learn something from him.

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      1. It is not that I don’t respect Nehru. But Patel had guts. He just gave importance to what was good for our country. Nehru was a charismatic leader and international leaders respected him.

        I thought it looked as if I am adding my post in your blog. It doesn’t look nice.

        1. It will come for everyone (except my replies). Lets see for sometime how people like it… then decide.

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  2. I’m happy to see ppl still remember these great leaders and their good deeds throughout generations 🙂 I do not have any favorites in leaders as such….because I feel everyone was equally good 🙂

    1. Actually, I outsource my memory to Wikipedia which remembers this and more. Then, I take it from there whenever I want 🙂

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  3. I agree with you assessment on Patel. Gandhi’s inclination towards Nehru made Nehru PM but in my opinion Patel would have been much better PM too. But I guess everything happens for a reason – he did not live for too long after Independence but what he did in 3 years it was impossible for others to do.

    1. Interesting perspective – Everything happening for a reason as he did not live longer! Also, the home ministry was the most important portfolio, maybe even more important than the PM’s position at that time. So, perhaps we were lucky indeed.

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  4. I liked the line fortunately for us Nehru was on tour… we were not that lucky with the rest of the policies by nehru or Gandhi before him ..

    But the iron man of indian politics was instrumental in getting the whole of india put together ..

    we need leaders like him who would use FORCE when needed to get things sorted ..


    1. The only reason why some one would not want to sort out things is because they have some deceptive scheme in their minds. But still, people keep voting for them! That’s what surprises me to no end!

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  5. It is a pity that we don’t have more Iron men today in India. Our Independence movement threw up some real steely characters and they just roll off the tongue! If one has to think of any people like that today one has to think really hard~!

    1. That was one positive side of years of struggle! Maybe that’s why they say that we need to struggle – to gain skills?

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  6. Or let me put it in another way. It is when the stakes are high that the leaders come out of the woodwork? Nationhood is a very strong motivator. I for one, even though an ordinary person, would have been charged and ready to give up my life for India if I had been born in that time. It was an euphoria of a different kind, the independence movement.

    1. Gone are those days when nationalist sentiments could garner euphoria? I think, these days people are conditioned by being provided with too much comforts… What you say is right – It depends on the situation. Too much graft has brought Anna Hazare, Aravind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. So, too much of bad leadership might one day produce some outstanding leaders as well. At least, lets hope so.

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  7. Great post DI. Not many people remember such people on their blog. I respect Sardar Vallabhai Patel a lot. And like Sandhya said, he should have become our PM. He was rightfully called the “Iron Man of India” like you said. Wish we had someone like him in today’s India.

    1. Perhaps, at that time the home ministry was more important than the showcase PM post! Anyways, we were lucky to have such leaders back then. I was glad to know about Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel myself by doing this post.

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  8. Our struggle for freedom brought so many great personalities to the fore and Vallabhbhai Patel was one of them. I remember I had done a piece on him for my history project. Little did I understand the value of his contributions back then. 🙁
    I had forgotten quite a bit. Your post served as a reminder. 🙂

    1. I should have studied about him in History, but don’t remember! All I remember is the world war and russian revolution! The quit India movement and other historical incidents were covered with such a haste in our history books! But back then, maybe we lacked the interest to know more about these incidents as well?

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  9. Well, Sardar would remain my all time fav freedom fighter for various resons. no offence to Nehru or Gandhi but when it came to take tough decisions, no one can match Sardar…

    1. He was also a field level organizer. He literally traveled to many villages, convinced people and organized the resistance against the British. I have a lot of respect for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

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      1. yeah… MBA case study 😉

        on a serious note, i complete agree to what you say. Wish he had become the PM then instead of Nehru. India’s fate would have been quite different. ALAS!!!

  10. Nice post , given good information. people know only little bit knowledge of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. But youe article given a some news and important information about him.

  11. Good to see about iron man Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. I respect Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel a lot. He is an real ideal man. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

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