Source: P.R Menon, “Vallabhbhai Patel”, Eminent Indians, Vol.1, ed. Ermine A. Brown (Calcutta: Shanti Mitra, 1948)

Sardar Vallabhai Patel

Sardar Vallabhai Patel was born in 1875, the son of Javeribhai, who had earned a reputation for fighting against the British Government in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Patel likewise had a rebellious nature of his own. He was known for his fiery performance as a barrister and was reputed to be a “terror” to the judiciary.

His first notable step into politics was in 1918, when a terrible famine ravaged Gujerat. Gandhi had stepped in to start a peasant Satyagraha after the peasants’ pleas for exemption from the land-tax fell on deaf ears. While Patel had initially been in contempt of Gandhi, he was soon won over by his immense self-assurance and tendered his support to the movement, which proved to be a success. His fame hit its peak in 1928 when he organised and led a peasants’ revolt in Bardoli. The movement soon extended to other parts of India and was called off only after a satisfactory compromise had been made between the people and the Government.

The 1928 Congress session in Calcutta saw the Congress declare their objective to be ‘Purna Swaraj’ unless Dominion Status was granted to India within one year. When Gandhi initiated the movement to the Dandi beach in 1930, Patel became the leader in Gujerat and urged the Gujerat peasantry to join the campaign. His imprisonment only fanned the flames of the movement. The 1930 Satyagraha pushed him further into the limelight and he was elected President of the next session of the Congress, held in Karachi. He was a leader of the Rightist Congress and did not have patience for the socialists, finding them a great obstacle to the securing of Swaraj.

A man of action, he was grimly efficient in his dealings, pushing through measures such as Prohibition and Trade Dispute Acts despite heavy opposition. Yet, his aggressive behaviour also made him unpopular among some of the public, who termed him a fascist for his actions in the Khare and Nariman incidents.

Though an ardent supporter of Gandhi, he did not subscribe to the ethical aspect of his doctrine of non-violence, viewing it merely as a political stratagem.

Source: P.R Menon, “Vallabhbhai Patel”, Eminent Indians, Vol. 1, ed. Ermine A. Brown (Calcutta: Shanti Mitra, 1948), 69-78

Works

A Nation’s Homage: Life and Work of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, ed. P.D. Saggi (Bombay: Overseas Pub. House)

Ideas of IndiaIdeas of India