EARLY LIFE

  • Vallabhbhai Patel’s was born on  31 October 1875 to Jhaverbhai Patel and Ladba Patel.
  • Vallabhbhai Patel travelled to attend schools in Nadiad, Petlad, and Borsad, living self-sufficiently with other boys. He reputedly cultivated a stoic character.
  • Once he lanced his own painful boil without hesitation, even as the barber charged with doing it trembled.

EDUCATION

  • When Vallabhbhai Patel passed his matriculation at the relatively late age of 22. 
  • Vallabhbhai Patel himself, though, harbored a plan to study to become a lawyer. He worked  and saved funds to travel to England, and become a barrister.

    Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
    Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
  • Patel spent years away from his family while studying on his own with books borrowed from other lawyers. He passed his examinations within two years.

PATEL PROFESSIONAL LIFE

  • Vallabhbhai Patel set up his household in Godhra and was called to the bar. The couple had a daughter, Maniben, in 1904 and a son, Dahyabhai, in 1906.
  • Soon, Patel earned a reputation as a fierce and skilled lawyer. Patel also cared for a friend suffering from the Bubonic plague when it swept across Gujarat.
  • When Vallabhbhai Patel himself came down with the disease, he immediately sent his family to safety. He left his home, and moved into an isolated house in Nadiad and there he recovered slowly.
  • Patel practised law in Godhra, Borsad, and Anand while taking on the financial burdens of his homestead in Karamsad.
  • Vallabhbhai Patel was the first chairman and founder of Jhaverbhai Dajibhai Patel High School in Borsad.
  • In 1909 Patel’s wife Jhaverba was hospitalised in Bombay. She underwent major surgery for cancer. Patel was given a note informing him of his wife’s demise as he was cross-examining a witness in court. Patel read the note, pocketed it, and continued his cross-examination and won the case. He broke the news to others only after the proceedings had ended.
  • Vallabhbhai Patel decided against marrying again. He raised his children with the help of his family and sent them to English-language schools in Mumbai.
  • At the age of 36 he journeyed to England and enrolled at the Middle Temple Inn in London. Completing a 36-month course in 30 months, Patel finished at the top of his class despite having had no previous college background.
  • Returning to India, Vallabhbhai Patel settled in Ahmedabad and became one of the city’s most successful barristers. Wearing European-style clothes and sporting urbane mannerisms, he became a skilled bridge player.

POLITICAL LIFE

  • At the urging of his friends, Patel ran in the election for the post of sanitation commissioner of Ahmedabad in 1917 and won.
  • While often clashing with British officials on civic issues, he did not show any interest in politics.

    Sardar Patel Negotiating with British Government
    Sardar Patel Negotiating with British Government
  • A subsequent meeting with Gandhi, in October 1917 fundamentally changed Patel and led him to join the Indian independence struggle.
  • On Gandhi’s encouragement, Vallabhbhai Patel became the secretary of the Gujarat Sabha, a public body that would become the Gujarati arm of the Indian National Congress.

Kheda Satyagraha

  • Soon Gandhi asked for a Gujarati activist to devote himself completely to the assignment and Patel volunteered, much to Gandhi’s delight. Vallabhbhai Patel began a village-by-village tour in the Kheda district, documenting grievances and asking villagers for their support for a statewide revolt by refusing to pay taxes.
  • Patel emphasised the potential hardships and the need for complete unity and non-violence in the face of provocation. He received an enthusiastic response from virtually every village.
  • When the people revolted was launched and withheld tax revenue from government. The government sent police and intimidation squads to seize property, including confiscating barn animals and whole farms. Patel organised a network of volunteers to work with individual villages, helping them hide valuables and protect themselves against raids.

    Sardar Patel with Gandhiji
    Sardar Patel with Gandhiji
  • The revolt evoked sympathy and admiration across India, including among pro-British Indian politicians. The government agreed to negotiate with Patel and decided to suspend the payment of taxes for a year, even scaling back the rate.
  • Patel emerged as a hero to Gujaratis. In 1920 congress elected him president of the newly formed Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee. He would serve as its president until 1945.
  • In the following years against alcoholism, untouchability, and caste discrimination, as well as for the empowerment of women.
  • The people of Ahmadabad elected Patel as Ahmedabad’s municipal president in 1922, 1924, and 1927. He during his terms, oversaw improvements in infrastructure. Patel increased the supply of electricity and drainage and sanitation systems were extended throughout the city.
  • The school system underwent major reforms. He fought for the recognition and payment of teachers employed in schools established by nationalists (independent of British control) and even took on sensitive Hindu–Muslim issues.

Bardoli Satyagraha

  • In April 1928 Patel returned to the independence struggle from his municipal duties in Ahmedabad when Bardoli suffered from a serious double predicament of a famine and a steep tax hike. After cross-examining and talking to village representatives, emphasising the potential hardship and need for non-violence and cohesion. Patel initiated the struggle with a complete denial of taxes.
  • Patel organised volunteers, camps, and an information network across affected areas. The revenue refusal was stronger than in Kheda, and many sympathy satyagrahas were undertaken across Gujarat.
  • He negotiated a settlement that included repealing the tax hike and returning seized property and land.
  • It was during the struggle and after the victory in Bardoli that Patel was increasingly addressed by his colleagues and followers as Sardar.

RISE TO CONGRESS LEADERSHIP

  • The Congress worker elected Patel as president of Congress for its 1931 session in Karachi.
  • Gandhi and Patel were arrested in January 1932 when the struggle re-opened, and imprisoned in the Yeravda Central Jail. During this term of imprisonment, Patel and Gandhi grew close to each other, and the two developed a close bond of affection, trust, and frankness.
  • He refused a British offer for a brief release to attend the cremation of his brother Vithalbhai, who had died in 1934. The British government finally released in July of the same year.
  • Patel’s position at the highest level in the Congress was largely connected with his role from 1934 onwards  in the party organisation.
  • He became the Congress’s main fundraiser and chairman of its Central Parliamentary Board. He played the leading role in selecting and financing candidates for the 1934 election.
  • In addition to collecting funds and selecting candidates, he also determined the Congress’s stance on issues and opponents. Not contesting a seat for himself, Patel nevertheless guided Congressmen elected in the provinces and at the national level.
  • In 1935 Patel underwent surgery for haemorrhoids. He continued to direct efforts against the plague in Bardoli and again when a drought struck Gujarat in 1939.
  • Patel clashed with Nehru, opposing declarations of the adoption of socialism at the 1936 Congress session. He believed was a diversion from the main goal of achieving independence.
  • In 1938 Patel organised rank and file opposition to the attempts of then-Congress president Subhas Chandra Bose to move away from Gandhi’s principles of nonviolent resistance. But criticism arose from Bose’s supporters, socialists, and other Congressmen that Patel himself was acting in an authoritarian manner in his defence of Gandhi’s authority.

Quit India movement

  • Soon he was arrested in 1940 due his participation in civil disobedience and imprisoned for nine months. He also opposed the proposals of the Cripps’ mission in 1942. Patel lost more than twenty pounds during his period in jail.
  • While Nehru, Rajagopalachari, and Maulana Azad initially criticised Gandhi’s proposal for an all-out campaign to force the British to quit India. Patel was its most fervent supporter. Patel urged that the campaign start without any delay.
  • Gandhi strongly pressured Congress to approve an all-out campaign of civil disobedience. The AICC approved the campaign on 7 August 1942.
  • The British Government arrested patel on 9 August. The Government imprisoned him with the entire Congress Leadership from 1942 to 1945 at the fort in Ahmednagar.
  • The British government released Patel in 15 June 1945. Soon he realized that the British were preparing proposals to transfer power to India.

Integration after Independence and role of Gandhi

  • In the 1946 election for the Congress presidency, Patel stepped down in favour of Nehru at the request of Gandhi. The election’s importance stemmed from the fact that the elected president would lead independent India’s first government.
  • The League had resolved in 1940 to demand Pakistan – an independent state for Muslims – and was a fierce critic of the Congress.
  • Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the first Congress leaders to accept the partition of India as a solution to the rising Muslim separatist movement.
  • He had been outraged by Jinnah’s Direct Action campaign, which had provoked communal violence across India.
  • However Vallabhbhai Patel had foreseen the intense violence and population transfer that would take place with partition.
  • Patel took the lead in organising relief and emergency supplies. He established refugee camps and visiting the border areas with Pakistani leaders to encourage peace.
  • As the first Home Minister, Vallabhbhai Patel played a key role in the integration of the princely states into the Indian federation.
  • He persuaded the princes of 565 states of the impossibility of independence from the Indian republic, especially in the presence of growing opposition from their subjects. He proposed favourable terms for the merger, including the creation of privy purses for the rulers’ descendants. There were 562 princely states in India which Sardar Patel unified.

FIRST HOME MINISTER OF INDIA

  • Vallabhbhai Patel was a key force behind the appointment of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar as the chairman of the drafting committee. He wanted inclusion of leaders from a diverse political spectrum in the process of writing the constitution.

    Sardar Patel taking Oath
    Sardar Patel taking Oath
  • He was also instrumental in the founding the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service. Patel is known as the “patron saint” of India’s services.
  • When a delegation of Gujarati farmers came to him citing their inability to sell their milk production. Patel exhorted them to organise the processing and sale of milk by themselves. He guided them to create the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, which preceded the Amul milk products brand.
  • Vallabhbhai Patel also pledged the reconstruction of the ancient but dilapidated Somnath Temple in Saurashtra. He oversaw the restoration work and the creation of a public trust. 
  • When Nehru pressured Dr. Rajendra Prasad to decline a nomination to become the first President of India in 1950 in favour of Rajagopalachari. He angered the party, which felt Nehru was attempting to impose his will. 
  • He believed Nehru had to understand that his will was not law with the Congress. 
  • Vallabhbhai Patel had been featured on the cover page of the January 1947 issue of Time magazine.

WAR WITH PAKISTAN

  • When the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir began in September 1947, Patel immediately wanted to send troops into Kashmir. But, agreeing with Nehru and Mountbatten, he waited until Kashmir’s monarch had acceded to India. Vallabhbhai Patel then oversaw India’s military operations to secure Srinagar and the Baramulla Pass, and the forces retrieved much territory from the invaders.
  • Patel strongly advised Nehru against going for arbitration to the United Nations, insisting that Pakistan had been wrong to support the invasion and the accession to India was valid. He did not want foreign interference in a bilateral affair.
  • Patel opposed the release of Rs. 550 million to the Government of Pakistan, convinced that the money would go to finance the war against India in Kashmir. Gandhi, who feared an intensifying rivalry and further communal violence, went on a fast-unto-death to obtain the release. Congress decision to reject his counsel and a Cabinet decision. This  decision deeply hurt him.

Death

  • Patel’s health declined rapidly through the summer of 1950. He later began coughing blood, whereupon Maniben arranged for a personalised medical staff to begin attending to Patel.
  • After suffering a massive heart attack (his second), Patel died at 9:37 a.m. on 15 December 1950 at Birla House in Bombay.

Criticism

  • During his lifetime, Vallabhbhai Patel received criticism for an alleged bias against Muslims during the time of Partition.
  • The supporters of Subhas Chandra Bose criticized Patel for acting corrosively to put down politicians not supportive of Gandhi.
  • Jayaprakash Narayan criticised him for his personal proximity to Indian industrialists such as the Birla and Sarabhai families.

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