| Sardar Patel remains one of the tallest leaders of the Indian freed'bm movement, a man of strong principles, who gave up a lucrative legal career to join Gandhiji in his mission to free India of British rule.
The Indian freedom struggle and the face of independent India would have looked different but for the commitment and sacrifice of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Known as the 'Iron Man of India', Vallabhbhai Patel was born in October, 1875, in Nadiad, Gujarat. He was brought up in the Karamsad village in the Kheda district. He completed his matriculation at 22, and planned to go to England in order to study and become a lawyer. He borrowed books form lawyers to study and passed his exams in two years. He then established a household in Godhra and fetched his wife from her parents home.
By then, Vallabhbhai Patel had become well known as a stoic person and a ferocious lawyer. However, in 1909, while getting a serious operation done, his wife passed away. Patel received the news in the midst of a court case, but continued. He broke the news to others only after the proceedings ended. Patel enrolled at Middle Temple, London to
pursue further studies. After topping his class, he returned to Ahmedabad and set up a
successful legal practice as a successful barrister. He lived a modern life, dressing up in Western attire, with urbane demeanor and the occasional game of bridge.
Elected as the sanitation commissioner in 1917, Patel did not show any interest in politics. However, as had been the case with many freedom fighters before him, he was moved by Gandhi. Patel was deeply impressed by Gandhi's dedication to the cause of the farmers in Champaran and Kheda.
Patel began his journey for the natioaal cause through the Gujarat Sabha, of wUich he became the secretary. This was to be the Gujarati wing of the Congress in the state. He toured several villages for the Kheda Satyagraha, led by Gandhi, documenting the grievances of the people. The government gave in, and decided to postpone the collection of revenue by another year. Patel also served as the President of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee from 1920-45. From 1919, Patel threw in his lot, (including his children) in the non-cooperation movement. He burnt all his western clothing and adopted a completely Indian lifestyle. Even after the Non Cooperation movement was called off, he continued to do constructive work in the villages against untouchability, alchoholism and for the up liftment of women. In 1923, when Gandhi was in prison, Patel was asked to lead the Satyagraha in Nagpur against a law banning the Indian flag. He was arrested for his participation in the Salt Satyagraha.
He served as the Congress president in 1931 at Karachi where important decisions were taken regarding fundamental and human rights. In 1932, upon the resumption ofCiviJ Disobedience, Patel was imprisoned at the Yeravada jail. In 1942, Patel gave an electrifying speech, urging the nation to' do or die: He was imprisoned before the Quit India Movement was launched and remained in jail through the three years duration till 1945.
Patel stepped down from the contest of elections for the post of Party President at the request of Gandhiji and allowed Nehru to win in 1946. 13 out of the 16 votes cast were in his favour. This was crucial, since the president wasto become the first PM of independent India, which Nehru did. Patel became the Home Minister instead. According to the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946, the 600 princely states could decide to go with India or Pakistan or remain as dominion states of the British Empire. It was the single-handed work of the Sardar that made a complete geographical nation possible. Dueto the frank diplomacy and threat of military employed by Sardar Patel and the sharp senior civil servant, V.P Menon who assisted him, 565 semi-autonomous states became a part of the Indian Union. After weaving India into one nation, he also overhauled the modern all- India civil services. Although he criticized and clashed with Nehru on several issues (ideology of capitalism and socialism), they worked in tandem for the sake of the nation, and their beloved Bapu.
In 1950, almost as if he wanted to leave the world once his mission was complete, Patel breathed his last. He is remembered as the architect of independent India, forging hundreds of princely nations into a single nation state.