By Ananth Seth
Within months of coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Modi’s government had announced that henceforth, nation will celebrate October 31, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, as Ekta Divas i.e. Unity Day. There cannot be a better tribute to independent India’s first Home Minister, the ‘Iron Man’ of India’s Freedom Struggle and the chief architect of unified India.
Patel, who would have been the first Prime Minister of India had the so called ‘Grand Old Party’ followed Democracy in letter and spirit, has been amongst the very few from Indian National Congress for whom being proud of their Sanaatan lineage was not an anathema. But for Patel’s perseverance and resolve, Somnath Temple in Gujrat would also have been, just like the Ram Janma Bhoomi, an unresolved issue. What makes Patel’s accomplishments even more laudable is the fact that he achieved what he achieved despite Nehru’s direct or oblique oppositions.
While Patel’s success in liberating Hyderabad from the clutches of Nizam and making Junagadh join Indian Union is widely acknowledged and appreciated, it is a less reported fact that Patel had a role, albeit indirect, in the accession of Jammu and Kashmir into India. In his book India: Shedding the Past and Embracing the Future, 1906-2017, Arun Bhatnagar, a 1966 batch IAS Officer explains how ‘Guruji’ MS Golwalkar, on being urged by Patel, went to Kashmir to persuade and convince Maharaja Hari Singh to join the Union of India. Though it was the subsequent Pakistani attack on Kashmir in 1948 that finally made Hari Singh sign the Instrument of Accession, it was the ground work done by Sardar Patel and Guruji which helped Maharaja Hari Singh to overcome the coercion of Pakistan and Muslim League.
That Patel had chosen Guruji Golwalkar as his emissary for getting Maharaja of Kashmir to join India should put to rest all the doubts which the Indian National Congress has laboured, in vain, to create regarding Patel’s outlook towards RSS.
Had Nehru heeded to Patel’s advice of not taking Kashmir to United Nations, the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan and the so called ‘Azad Kashmir’ would have been with India, giving us direct access to the Eurasian landmass. This would have meant strong strategic edge for our Nation since China would have been shut out of Karakoram, putting paid to its CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) designs.
Even with regards to the annexation of Tibet by China, Patel had urged Nehru to send assistance to Tibet after its 1950 invasion by the People’s Republic of China. But, as is the wont, Nehru snubbed Patel and the rest, as they say, is history. Had Nehru agreed to assist Tibet, as urged by Patel, during its 1950 invasion by China, the region where Brahmaputra and Indus rivers originate could have been under Indian control today. If that region, referred to by many as the Tap of Asia, were to be under Indian control, it would have given our nation enormous strategic advantage. Alas, it was not to be.
Sardar Patel’s contribution in the creation and nurturing of All India Services also needs a special mention. His intervention was key to the passage of Article 312(2) of Indian Constitution which protected Civil Servants from political involvement and guaranteed their terms and privileges. He is known as the “patron saint” of India’s services for his defence of Indian Civil Servants from political attack. His exhortation to the probationers to maintain utmost impartiality and incorruptibility of administration is as relevant today as it was then. The present-day All-India Administrative Services owe their origin to Patel’s acumen and he is rightly regarded as ‘Father of Modern All India Services.’
The 597 feet tall Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world, is an apt and fitting acknowledgment of the Himalayan stature of the man to whom our Nation owes its unified existence. It is not a coincidence that our Government has chosen October 31st as the day to formalize J&K’s full integration. Taking back PoK before 2025 – the 150th anniversary of Sardar – will be the icing on the cake. Tathaastu.