Skip to main content

Sardar Patel became anathema for Congress, particularly after advent of Indira Gandhi



By Mohan Guruswamy*
Narendra Modi will tomorrow inaugurate the giant Sardar Patel statue facing the Narmada Dam, 3.2 km away on the river island called Sadhu Bet near Rajpipla in Gujarat. Standing almost six hundred feet tall, it is the world's tallest statue. The project began in December 2013, and is probably the only achievement the Modi government has to show. The project worth Rs. 2989 crores was won by Larsen and Toubro (L&T). Initially the total cost of the project was estimated to be about Rs 3,001 crore and was paid for by the Government of India. 
Initially Modi flagged off as to be built by small contributions and crowd funding, but like all his other projects the means were actually something else. The bronze plates to create the likeness of Sardar Patel were imported from the TQ Art Foundry, a part of the Jiangxi Toqine Company in Nanchang, China. Hundreds of Chinese workers also toiled at Chad Bet to “assist” L&T in the concrete construction of the statue core.
Despite its Chinese lineage, the Patel statue was as much a bold assertion of Gujarati nationalism as it was to give Narendra Modi a political lineage to distinguish him from the parent RSS which sat out the freedom movement. Please note he didn’t build a statue of Guru Golwalkar or Deendayal Upadhyaya or even VD Savarkar. Or for that matter even Subhash Chandra Bose who still has a far bigger imprint on our minds than Vallabhbhai Patel ever did.
After Modi’s brazen attempt to draw political sustenance from the memory of Sardar Patel, an unseemly argument has broken out between the Congress and BJP over who are the true inheritors of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s legacy. That the BJP’s not so disguised attempt to arrogate it for itself in a bid to give itself a nationalist movement genealogy is a tawdry attempt to rewrite history. 
What Sardar Patel thought of the RSS is a matter of record. He minced no words about what he thought of it -- that it was fascist and narrow minded, and was responsible for the climate of hatred that led to Gandhiji's assassination. In a letter on July 18, 1948, after Gandhi’s murder, the Sardar wrote to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who would later found the Jan Sangh:
“As a result of the activities of these two bodies [the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha], particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and the State.” 
The RSS now has the government but it still presents a clear and present danger to the original idea of India, as an inclusive, egalitarian nation united by a Constitution and a shared purpose.
Modi has invested hugely in creating the illusion that the Congress party’s preferred leader was the Sardar and that Nehru was imposed on it. Nehru became PM because he was by far the Congress’ most popular politician, after Gandhiji. Nehru was the party’s star campaigner, captivating people with his soaring oratory and easy communication style in Hindustani. Patel might have had a firm grip on the Congress organization, but he was far behind Nehru in popularity and charisma. 
Patel himself conceded this at a massively attended Congress rally in Mumbai, when he told the celebrated American author and journalist Vincent Sheean, “They come for Jawahar, not for me." Patel’s realism was the hallmark of his politics and that made him the perfect foil to Nehru’s idealism.
It is also well known that the Congress had little time for the Sardar's legacy till Narendra Modi tried to don it. But the Congress's attempt to rediscover the Sardar's legacy and claim exclusive rights over it is also no less tawdry. Even when LK Advani tried it was not taken seriously. 
But like the Sardar, Modi too is a Gujarati and that has a certain resonance in that state. We know how strongly Modi feels about the Gujarati identity. His unwillingness to insure the Asiatic lion against extinction by translocating a few prides emanates from this.
It is well known that there were serious differences between Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel. It was less a clash of personalities as it was a clash of ideologies. The Sardar espoused a more robust and practical nationalism, and laissez faire economic policies. Nehru wanted to dismantle the colonial bureaucratic system but Patel wanted to retain the centralized civil service structure, the price for which we are still paying. Nehru was more internationalist, more leftist than realist, and preferred central planning to free market policies. 
Their policy inclinations were as different as chalk and cheese. But both were patriots tempered by the nationalist movement and both were popular leaders of the Congress rank and file, and the nation as a whole. Above all both were thorough gentlemen and whatever their differences never disrespected each other and subverted each other with factional intrigue. They preferred a moderation in language that would now been seen as a sign of weakness. They preferred to conciliate rather than divide.
It is also well known that after the death of Sardar Patel, something akin to a purge took place in the Congress and the Congress leaders who preferred to support the policies and politics espoused by the Sardar were shown their place or shown the door. The party donned socialist colours and its transformation was complete. 
With this physical purge, the intellectual purge of the Congress party also gathered pace, and Sardar Patel was practically airbrushed out of the Congress pantheon. For all practical purposes Sardar Patel became anathema for the Congress party, particularly after the advent of Indira Gandhi. It’s another matter that after its ideological peregrinations for half a century, the Congress party returned to the very same laissez faire economics favored by Patel and rejected by Nehru.
Congress leaders, who now claim to be legatees of Sardar Patel, would hardly know of him and what he stood for. For a start their language is different. Those days they belonged to a very different school of politics. Politics was about policies and grand ideas. To qualify in politics nowadays, one has to be a graduate of the school for scoundrels, where sycophancy and personality worship are the main attainments needed.
Sardar Patel had a thriving law practice he abandoned to heed the Mahatma's call, Jawaharlal Nehru was a superbly educated and highly evolved personality, and politics to him was a calling, not an occupation. Neither Narendra Modi nor Rahul Gandhi has much in them to claim such legacies. They are symptomatic of the sad days that have befallen the nation midwifed and contemplated by Nehru and Patel.
---
*Well-known public policy expert. Source: Author's Facebook timeline. Email: mohanguru@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.