Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel

(1875 -1950)

Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabh Bhai Patel formed the triumvirate that shaped the destiny of free India. Gandhi led India to freedom. Nehru gave content and meaning to that freedom. And it was Patel who consolidated that freedom by bringing out territorial and regional unity. He was the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Home Affairs in the first ministry of free India, led by Nehru.

When India won its freedom from foreign rule, it was a country of 562 princely states which were theoretically independent. Bhopal, Hyderabad and Travancore were on the verge of declaring independence. Indore was waiting on the wings to follow, and many other princes were watching the situation to take their own steps. But Patel thought otherwise. He wanted to unify the entire country under one roof. By his diplomacy, skill, tact and firmness, and with the brilliant assistance of some of his senior officers, he brought all the states into the Indian Union, and prevented further balkanization of the country, which was already going through the pangs of a partition as India and Pakistan. Even Nehru went on record that he could not imagine six months ago that the age-old princely system of rule of various kingdoms and principalities could be demolished in such a short time.

Patel was born in the Karamsad village of Gujarat in 1875 to Jawarbhai Patel and Lodbay, as the fourth of their six kids. His elder brother Vithal Bhai too proved later his mettle as a leader of the national movement for freedom. Vallabh Bhai won the district pleadership examination and started practice as a lawyer. He married Savabai. He went to England in 1910 with the money he earned as a lawyer, and returned to India in 1913 as a barrister.

Patel was a brilliant student and an efficient lawyer. He entered into public life as a councilor in the Ahamedabad Municipality and later as its president. He fought for the farmers of his district successfully and this won him the appreciation of Gandhi who gave him the title of 'Sardar'.

A close follower of Gandhi, he was arrested many times for breaking the restrictions imposed by the British on his movements and speech. In 1931 he was elected president of Congress at its Karachi meet. In the interim Ministry formed under Nehru, Patel looked after the portfolios of home, Information and broadcasting. And when Nehru formed the first ministry of Independent India, he was Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of Home ministry. The hard and incessant work he undertook for his motherland made him a heart patient and he breathed his last on December 15, 1950.