Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – the iron man of India

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950) was an Indian barrister and statesman, a leader of the Indian National Congress and a founding father of the Republic of India who played a leading role in the country’s struggle for independence and guided its integration into a united, independent nation. In India and elsewhere, he was often addressed as Sardar, which means Chief in Hindi, Urdu, and Persian.

Born into a Gurjar family Vallabhbhai Patel’s date of birth was never officially recorded; Patel entered it as 31 October on his matriculation examination papers.

Patel travelled to attend schools in Nadiad, N. K. High school, Petlad and Borsad, living self-sufficiently with other boys. He reputedly cultivated a stoiccharacter. A popular anecdote recounts how he lanced his own painful boil without hesitation, even as the barber charged with doing it trembled. When Patel passed his matriculation at the relatively late age of 22, he was generally regarded by his elders as an unambitious man destined for a commonplace job. Patel himself, though, harboured a plan to study to become a lawyer, work and save funds, travel to England, and study to become a barrister. Patel spent years away from his family, studying on his own with books borrowed from other lawyers, passing his examinations within two years. Fetching his wife Jhaverba from his parents’ home, Patel set up his household in Godhra and was called to the bar. During the many years it took him to save money, Patel – now an advocate – earned a reputation as a fierce and skilled lawyer. The couple had a daughter, Maniben, in 1904 and a son, Dahyabhai, in 1906. Patel also cared for a friend suffering from Bubonic plague when it swept across Gujarat. When Patel himself came down with the disease, he immediately sent his family to safety, left his home, and moved into an isolated house in Nadiad (by other accounts, Patel spent this time in a dilapidated temple); there, he recovered slowly.

Inspired by the work and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, he joined India’s struggle for independence. He organised peasants of Kheda, Bardoli and other parts of Gujarat and launched non-violent Civil Disobedience Movement in Gujarat, against the payment of raised tax, levied by the British government. He succeeded in his goal and the British Government suspended the payment of revenue for that year. With this he became one of the most influential leaders in Gujarat. In 1920 he became the president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee and served in the post till 1945. He was a strong supporter of the Non -Cooperation Movement of Gandhi and worked against alcoholism, Untouchability and caste discrimination in Gujarat. He was elected as the municipal president of Ahmedabad in 1922, 1924 and 1927. When Mahatma Gandhi was in prison, he led the Satyagraha in Nagpur in 1923 against the British law, banning the raising of the Indian flag. He was elected as the President of India National Congress in 1931. He was at the forefront of the Congress’ all India election campaign in 1934 and 1937 and was a prominent leader in organising the Quit India Movement in 1942. He was arrested prior to the Quit India Movement and was released in 1945.

After India’s independence, he became the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India. He organised relief camps for refugees in Punjab and Delhi. He was the man behind the consolidation of 565 semi-autonomous princely states to form a united India. Patel was very attached to Mahatma Gandhi. After Mahatma Gandhi’s death his condition also started deteriorating, he suffered a major heart attack within two months of Gandhi’s death. He died on 15 December 1950. He was a man of courage and determination and in the true sense the ‘Iron Man of India’.

Statue of Unity:

The under construction monument dedicated to the ‘Iron Man of India’ located in the Indian state of Gujarat. 182 metres (597 feet) in height, it is to be located facing the Narmada Dam, 3.2 km away on the river island called Sadhu Bet near Vadodara in Gujarat. This statue is planned to be spread over 20,000 square meters of project area and will be surrounded by an artificial lake spread across 12 km of area. It will be constructed with steel framing, reinforced cement concrete and bronze coating. The statue will need 75000 cubic metres of concrete, 5700 metric tonne steel structure, 18500 tonne reinforced steel rods, 22500 tonne bronze sheets for construction. It would be the world’s tallest statue when completed. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), a special purpose vehicle was established by the Gujarat government and the outreach programme across India was carried out starting December 2013.

Facts and Information about Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel

BornOctober 31, 1875 (Nadiad)
DiedDecember 15, 1950 (Bombay)
FatherJhaverbhai (farmer)
MotherLaad Bai
Elder BrothersSomabhai, Narsibhai and Vithalbhai Patel.
Younger BrotherKashibhai
Leaving HomeAfter contracting Bubonic Plague, he started leaving alone in Nadiad and recuperated slowly.
Wife’s CancerPatel’s wife was a patient of cancer. She died during a major surgical operation.
Early Political CareerIn September 1917, Patel delivered an encouraging speech in Borsad to motivate Indians to sign Gandhi’s petition demanding Swaraj.

Patel also rose against the forced servitude of Indians to Europeans. He organised relief efforts at the time of plague and famine in the Kheda district.

Vallabhbhai Patel initiated a village-to-village tour to involve maximum people in the statewide revolt to refuse the payment of taxes.

Patel supported Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement and toured the state to recruit more than 300,000 members and raise over Rs. 15 lakh in funds.

Satyagraha was led by Patel in Nagpur in the absence of Gandhi in 1923 against a law that restricted the hoisting of the Indian flag.

The SardarPatel became popular as Sardar among his colleagues and followers after the triumph in Bardoli.

Patel became the Congress president for the Karachi session of 1931.

Quit India MovementOn the outbreak of World War II, Patel supported Nehru’s decision to withdraw the Congress from central and provincial legislatures.

In 1940 he was jailed for 9 months .

In 1942 he rejected the proposals of the Cripps’ mission.

Integration after IndependenceIn the 1946 election for the Congress presidency, Patel stepped down in favour of Nehru.

As the first Home Minister, Patel’s role was significant in integration of several princely states into the Indian federation.

Vallabhbhai Patel believed that the partition of India could resolve the rising Muslim separatist movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Patel represented India on the Partition Council and chose the Indian council of ministers with Nehru.

Leading IndiaPatel took the decision to appoint Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar as the chairman of the drafting committee and the other leaders for the process of writing the constitution.

Patel was the chairman of the committees that was responsible for fundamental rights, tribal and excluded areas, minorities and provincial constitutions.

When the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir began in September 1947, Patel immediately wanted to send troops into Kashmir. But agreeing with Nehru and Mountbatten, he waited till Kashmir’s monarch had acceded to India. Patel then oversaw India’s military operations to secure Srinagar, the Baramulla Pass and the forces retrieved much territory from the invaders.

Gandhi’s death and relations with NehruPatel was a loyal follower of Gandhi.

Nehru and Patel argued over national issues. Nehru was opposed by Patel over his Kashmir policy. According to Patel, Nehru was not justified in sidelining his home ministry’s officials.

InstitutionsSeveral institutes have been named after him, such as:

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture & Technology, Meerut

Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat

Sardar Patel University, Gujarat

Sardar Patel Institute of Technology, Vasad

Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, New Delhi

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Technology, Vasad

MonumentsSardar Patel Memorial Trust

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial, Ahmedabad

Sardar Sarovar Dam, Gujarat

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad

Films on Sardar PatelArun Sadekar played the part of Patel in Hey Ram, a movie by Kamal Haasan in 2000.

In 1993, the biopic Sardar was produced and directed by Ketan Mehta, featuring Paresh Rawal as Patel, describing Patel’s leadership, the partition of India and Patel’s relationship with Gandhi and Nehru.

Saeed Jaffrey portrayed Patel in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi in 1982.

Mention in literatureShashi Tharoor in his novel The Great Indian Novel has made use of satire to present the character of Vidur Hastinapuri, which is based on Patel as well as Vidura, a mythological character.
DocumentaryA documentary on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was made under the direction of Kantilal Rathod in 1976.
BooksTo know more about Patel you may read: Life and Work of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Editor Parshottam Das Saggi, Foreword by C. Rajagopalachari. Overseas Publishing House, Bombay.
Photo ofSardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
(the iron man of India)


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