DC Edit | The lessons India can learn from Sardar Patel & Indira

Sardar Patel's list of achievements is too long even by the extraordinary standards of his seniors and peers

Update: 2023-10-31 18:30 GMT
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flags off e-buses during 'Rashtriya Ekta Diwas' (National Unity Day) celebrations, in Kevadia, on Tuesday. (Image: PTI)

There are very few in world history, perhaps almost none, who oversaw the Partition of a country and its unification simultaneously. Unifiers of nations, like Giuseppe Garibaldi or Mazzini or Wilhelm von Bismarck merely did that, but Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s contributions and ability to rise to meet the needs of a nation to be created at historic watershed moments makes him an outlier even in the rarest of clubs.

Sardar Patel has carved his extraordinary place in Indian history with his contribution to the freedom movement. A Gandhian with a twist, he was strong and could stand his ground against any force, which kept India in good stead. He not only led the country to its Independence, a culmination of our freedom struggle, but also had to pragmatically oversee the details of the Partition of the nation.

Fighting steadfastly with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and putting in place his demands, some of them outrageous, like having Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, as a temporary common capital or building a link between West and East Pakistan, Patel not only ensured the terms of the Partition did not become too terrible for India, but also gave confidence to a people rendered homeless.

It was also Patel, who simultaneously while overseeing the Partition of India, also ensured over 850 princely states and petty monarchical territories were integrated into India, among them, Hyderabad.

Sardar Patel’s list of achievements is too long even by the extraordinary standards of his seniors and peers — Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Subhas Bose — and while on the sidelines of making big time history, he helped in reshaping the All India Services (AIS), establishing the foundations of modernising the police forces and supporting the creation of a cooperative like Amul.

On his birth anniversary, observed as National Unity Day (Ekta Diwas), we have a duty to dedicate ourselves as a people to keeping our country united, staying strong, secure and never allowing monarchical or separatist tendencies to assert themselves.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, October 31 is a great day but also a sad day in Indian history, a day when Indira Gandhi became the first Prime Minister to be assassinated while in office.

Indira Gandhi’s legacy is neither white nor black, like her famous hairstyle, and along with dark stains of Emergency, of overseeing the degeneration of the Indian political character, of the loss and death of idealism, of transforming the party into a dynastic fiefdom, of establishing corruption as a system and of reducing state governments to puppets, she was also a fearless leader, who stood for strong decisions in the larger interest of the country.

From the 1971 Bangladesh war, which was a return gift of Partition to Pakistan, to helping India recover lost military ground against China in 1967, from not bowing down to religious fundamentalism, which finally took her life, to large-scale disruptions in socioeconomic policy areas, like nationalisation of banks, she towered over the polity of her era.

While too much time is lost in criticising leaders of the past, and it is a fair and valid endeavour, instead of focusing too much on dreamy counterfactuals, it would be best for our leaders and thinkers to focus on the good qualities of the great leaders, lessons we can learn and emulate, and ideas which will benefit the country and its citizens.



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