Our country has produced a galaxy of thinkers and theoreticians, but there have been very few who have translated theory into practice and converted promise into performance. The life and work of Sardar Patel, whose forty – seventy death anniversary was observed on December 15 lst year show that “things are revolutionized not by creating revolutions on the streets but by achieving practical solutions to the existing problems”. In these days, when virtually India is writing another disappointed story of disorder and disarray in its beleaguered history; it is of paramount importance that the nation’s attention should be invited to Sardar Patel’s concrete and constructive contribution in various areas of Indian polity and administration. Sardar Patelji, the first Home Minister of free India, was a remarkable personality and he is my favourite leader for his innumerable qualities.
There is no one in modern India who has achieved so much in so many directions and in such a short time as Sardar Patel. At the time of his death, the Manchester Guardian wrote that without Patel, Gandhiji’s ideas would have less practical influence and Nehru’s idealism less scope. He was not only the organizer of the fight for freedom but also the arcthitect of the new state when the fight was over. The same man is seldom successful both as rebel and statesman. Sardar Patel was an exception. We learn from his life that it is the constructive work alone that can inject meaning into the veins of history and civilization. The great questions of the day are not settled by speeches and slogans but by sound and solid actions just like did by Sardar Patel in his life.
One of the greatest triumphs in real sense of realism and responsibility of Sardar Patel was integration of over 500 princely states. In respect of this great task, he has often been compared with Chancellor Bismarck who unified Germany in the late nineteenth century. But Sardar Patel’s achievements are far more remarkable than that of Bismarck. The latter had to deal with only a dozen states in comparison to 561 dealt with by Sardar Patel. Patelji brought about a bloodless revolution as compared to the policy of ‘blood & iron’ of Bismarck. He showed an amazing capacity to size up men and moments and to strike when the iron was hot. His efforts resulted in adding of about eighty thousand square kilometers of land to the Indian Union.
Sardar Patel’s great contribution was warmly recognized by both Gandhiji and Lord Mountbatten. Gandhiji observed about Patelji : “The task of dealing with the princes was truly formidable, but I am convinced that the Sardar was the only person who could have coped with it”. In a letter written by Lord Mountbatten to Patelji, it said “There is no doubt that by far the most important achievement of the present government is unification of the states into the Dominion of India. Had you failed in this, the results would have been disastrous. But since you succeeded, no one can see the disastrous consequences that you avoided. Nothing has added to the prestige of the present Government more than the brilliant policy you have followed with the states”.
Sardar Patelji first formulated the great design for a well-knit India and then proceeded to materialize it on the ground. He aroused the patriotic sentiments of the princes and remind them : “We are at a momentous stage in the history of India. By a common endeavour, we can raise the country to a new greatness, while lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities”. At the same time, he took care not to allow any grass to grow underneath his feet. Patel was accused for sometime for being anti – Muslim. Unfortunately, in the present day India, this accusation has to be faced by all those who are the real benefactors of the Muslims but who have the courage and commitment of calling a spade a spade, and making a distinction between appeasement and fairness.
The approach followed by Patel was direct and dynamic. He often combined his morning walk with the inspection of the streets of the city. Taking clue from Sardar Patel’s solid and selfless work in the streets of Ahmedabad, Gandhiji advised the municipal councilors all over the country for not seeking honours or indulge in mutual rivalries, but, he advised them to have real spirit of service and convert themselves into unpaid sweepers and roadmakers and above all take pride in doing so. Patel was an embodiment of probity in public life. The only property he left comprised a few dhotis and kurtas and a suitcase. He did not tolerate malfeasance anywhere. Even a minor impropriety by his partymen was sternly dealt with. Patel constructed a model which solved many of the acute problems of sanitation, health, water supply, waste disposal and traffic.
Today our country is facing a serious threat to its integrity in which administration is collapsing and terrorism is extending its tentacles right from the State of Kashmir to the other end of Coimbatore. At such times, it is essential for the nation particularly the ruling elite to remember the teaching and approach of Sardar patel and ward off the coming anarchy. I still love to read books written by Sardar Patel and get inspiration from his achievements and teachings. I wish that the present leaders must take a cue from his books and make ways for the prosperity of the nation.