Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (October 31, 1875–December 15, 1950), popularly referred to as Sardar, was an Indian statesman, an important leader of the Indian National Congress and the deputy Prime Minister in the first cabinet of Independent India.
Vallabhbhai Patel was born into a farmer family on October 31, 1875, in Nadiad, Gujarat, India. He was the fourth son of Jhaverbhai Patel and Ladba. Somabhai, Narsibhai and Vitthalbhai Patel were his elder brothers. Like his contemporaries in the Indian freedom movement, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, he also went to London to be trained as a barrister. He returned to India to become one of the leading lawyers in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Inspired by Gandhi, he joined the freedom Movement.
Movement for Indian independence
Sardar Patel's first major participation was during the Kheda Struggle. The Kheda division of Gujarat was reeling under a severe drought and the peasants asked for relief from the high rate of taxes. When it was denied, Sardar Patel, Gandhi and others led the villagers in their refusal to pay the taxes. Ultimately the government granted tax relief for that year resulting in the first major success for Sardar in his public life.
Sardar's name is associated with the Satyagraha or non-cooperation movement in the town of Bardoli, Gujarat.
Patel joined the Congress during Gandhi's non-cooperation movements of the twenties and by 1937 had been Congress President twice. He was popular within the party bureaucracy but his great rival, and leader of the socialists in Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a far more charismatic and appealing mass leader. Gandhi continually had to intervene between the two leaders, and eventually his support of Nehru ensured that Patel's prime ministerial ambitions were thwarted.
Patel was placated with the post of Deputy PM and the powerful Home Ministry, though relations between him and Nehru continued to be strained, wih both threatening to resign on several occasions. His most immediate concern was consolidation of the Indian princely states into the Union of India, which he accomplished ruthlessly, even sending the army into Hyderabad. His authoritarian streak meant that he was subsequently called the Iron Man of India. He died in 1950, leaving the right wing of Congress leaderless.
Integration of Princely States
Even during the transition period before Independence, assisted by bureaucrat V.P. Menon, Patel worked towards the integration of the numerous Indian states into the Indian union. Patel and Menon attempted to persuade the princes of the impossibilty of autonomy from the future the Indian republic, especially in the presence of growing opposition from some of their subjects. He also proposed favourable terms for the merger including creation of privy purses for the descendants of the rulers. All but three of the states merged into the Indian union leading to the comment that Patel “liquidated the princely states without liquidating the princes”. Only Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad did not fall into his “basket”. Junagadh joined the union, following protests against the Nawab, who fled to Pakistan. When the Nizam of Hyderabad refused to join, Patel sent the army and Hyderabad surrendered in a few days. Because Kashmir had taken on an particular sensitivity after Pakistan's tribal incursions, Nehru took direct charge of Kashmiri affairs.
Gandhi, Rajmohan (1987). Patel, A Life. Navajivan publishing house, Ahmedabad.