The Indian National struggle for Independence was filled with illustrious, intelligent and astounding leaders. While history has been kind to some who are well known with a legacy of their own, unfortunately there are plenty who haven’t received the praise and recognition they rightfully deserve.

Among many such towering leaders and social reformers was Vithalbhai Patel, one of the most prominent and esteemed champions of the Indian freedom struggle whose contributions are forgotten and also have been unjustly overlooked by historians.
Born in Nadiad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, Vithalbhai was third of 5 Patel Brothers. Vithalbhai entered the Middle Temple Inn in London. Returning to Gujarat in 1913, Vithalbhai became an important barrister in the courts of Bombay and Ahmadabad. Despite the fact that he seldom truly accepted Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and leadership, Patel joined the Congress and the freedom struggle.

He didn’t have any specific regional base for support but was a greatly influential leader who fuelled in the nationalist struggle by his fiery speeches and publications. Patel grew immensely popular and respected by his oratorical mastery and scintillating wit, both of which enabled him to belittle the British officials. He was an astute and practical leader throughout his life.

In a short span of 60 years of his life, Vithalbhai rose to become the first elected President of the Central Legislative Assembly in India (chamber of elected and appointed Indian and British representatives with limited legislative powers). As the President, he set established practices and stratagems for conducting business in the assembly. Apart from this, he also had won a seat in the Bombay Legislative Council and as the member of the council he played a crucial role in drafting 2 bills before the council- the Bombay District Municipal Act Amendment Bill and the Town Planning Bill. Patel, initially a powerful Congress pioneer who became the Chairman of the Reception Committee of the Special Session of the Congress held in Bombay in August 1918, contributed greatly in the proceedings of legislative affairs for the welfare and wellbeing of Indians, even under the British rule.
Vithalbhai’s approach to politics was simple. He had no demur to the use of any means provided the end goal was achieved. Only the objective and the goal remained constant and that was India’s freedom. On the other hand Gandhi Ji’s approach was more spiritual and moral.
Hence, when Gandhi Ji had prematurely aborted the Non-Cooperation movement due to the Chauri- Chaura incident, Patel left the Congress and formed his own “Swaraj” party with leaders like Chittaranjan Das and others who were unhappy over the abandonment of the Non-Cooperation movement by Gandhi Ji. The Swaraj Party sought to thwart the British rule by crippling the government after gaining entry in the councils. There was also a salient polarity between Vithalbhai and Vallabhbhai. Vithalbhai was inclined towards arriving on conclusions based on his own analysis and didn’t ever let anyone influence his judgments, however Vallabhbhai devotedly followed the advice of his “guru” Mahatma Gandhi; mostly without questioning their rationale. Later on, Vithalbhai traveled to various places in the United States of America and Europe where mayors of important cities usually received him. When he was in London, the relations between the British and Ireland began to deteriorate and the Irish leader Eamon De Valera who came into power wanted Patel to act as an arbitrator between Ireland and the British Empire.

Patel’s health began to worsen in Europe and as his last political move before passing away in Geneva, Switzerland, he signed a statement composed by Subhash Chandra Bose which declared Gandhi as a failed leader and called for a militant form of non-cooperation. On his deathbed, he left a will in which he gave away 3 quarters of his money to Bose for promoting India’s militant struggle. However, Vallabhbhai had questioned the veracity of Vithalbhai’s signature on this will when he saw one of the copies. As a result there was a case, which went on for a year leading to the courts judgment that his legal heirs could only inherit Vithalbhai’s property.

Image Credits: News 18 (Hindi)

Abhinandan Kaul

[email protected]

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

[email protected]