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Patel Versus Nehru: The Modern Indian Rivalry

Winston Churchill once wrote, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Here’s looking at how history was composed by our leaders at the eve of independence and beginning of self-rule, despite their apparent differences.

It is a well known fact that history was composed and looked after by coterie of the Indian National Congress which came to the fore in the leadership fracas in India before 1947, as a consequent result, Indian history has seldom acknowledged the fact that the country is indebted as much to Sardar Vallabhai Patel for its independence and integration as to leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru. The extraordinary leader also known hasn’t been given proper remembrance despite his great sacrifices for Independence, his contributions to issues like Kashmir and Hyderabad, as well as the bureaucratic system and the efforts made by him in unifying the country.
Patel considered himself a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and conceded to him (even on issues he had a differing view on), while Nehru, who was made the first Prime Minister of the nation, was neither a friend nor an enemy. They both worked together as partners, but also were often at loggerheads on several issues arising from the conflict between Nehru’s principles and Patel’s priorities.
Here is a brief account of their significant collaborations and rivalries wrapped around the modern history of the country;

For Post Of Congress President
Vallabhai Patel was the most favored choice to be sworn in as the President of Congress several times. The majority in Congress looked at him as the most deservingt candidate due to his credentials of being a skillful and hardheaded leader. However, he stepped aside for Nehru upon the request of his Guru, Mahatma Gandhi. “I suggested your name for the crown of thorns (President ship of the Congress). Keep it on, though the head be bruised,” wrote Gandhi Ji to Nehru in a letter dated 15th July 1936.
On Socialism
Nehru was increasingly disposed towards the idea that the developmental model of the nation must be steered by the government. However, Patel was of the opinion that industry must be established in the country before nationalization and also had cited the example of England, where socialism arose considerably on the road to industrialization.
On Hyderabad
A day prior to the entrance of Indian forces into Hyderabad (which was a princely state not part of India at that time) to fight against the Nizam’s
paramilitary force, K.M. Munshi, India’s then Agent General In Hyderabad, had recorded that Nehru “flew into rage and upbraided Sardar for his action and attitude towards Hyderabad.” However, plans didn’t change and the Indian forces rolled into Hyderabad.
On Kashmir Issue
Patel had advised Nehru against taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and even famously called it the “Insecurity Council”. However, his advice was ignored and this move resulted in the UNSC further complicating the issue by asking for withdrawal of forces and
conduct of plebiscite in the region.

Patel and Nehru’s rivalry and the internal strife between the two strands of the Congress led by them had been finally quelled upon the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi. There were heated arguments between Nehru and Patel and Patel had even written to Gandhi Ji to relieve him of his responsibilities. However, upon Gandhi Ji’s death, Nehru wrote a letter to Patel that now everything had changed and that there was urgent need for them to function closely and co-operatively, which Patel reciprocated. Hence Gandhi, through his death, could reconcile both the leaders of the new and fragile country.

Image Credits: Getty Images

Abhinandan Kaul

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