Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the prominent Indian barristers, politicians and leading figures of the country. He rose to prominence at the time of India’s freedom movement. After independence in 1947, he served as Deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister, Information Minister and Minister of State of India. He was indeed one of the founding leaders of the Republic of India and was instrumental in keeping the nation united. This uncompromising commitment of Vallabhbhai Patel to national integration earned him the sobriquet “Iron Man of India.”He was born on 31 october 1875 in the family of Jhaverbhai Patel and Ladba Patel at Nadiad, Gujarat.

Patel had a dream to study law in England. Using his hard-earned savings, he managed to get a pass and ticket to go to England.However, the ticket was addressed to ‘V.J. Patel’. His elder brother Vallabhbhai also had the same initials as Vallabhai. Sardar Patel came to know that his elder brother too cherished a dream to go to England for studies.In keeping with concerns for his family’s honour (disreputable for an older brother to follow his younger brother), Vallabhbhai Patel allowed Vithalbhai Patel to go, in his place.

In 1911, at the age of 36, two years after the death of his wife, Vallabhbhai Patel journeyed to England and enrolled at the Middle Temple Inn in London. Patel finished at the top of his class despite having had no previous college background. He completed the 36-month course in 30 months.Returning to India, Patel settled in Ahmedabad and became one of the city’s most successful barristers.Patel joined the Congress and became the secretary of the Gujarat Sabha that became a Congress stronghold later.

On Gandhi’s call, Patel quit his hard-earned job and joined the movement to fight for exemption of taxes in Kheda at the time of plague and famine (1918).Patel joined Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement (1920) and travelled around West India to recruit 3,00,000 members. He also collected more than Rs 1.5 million for the party fund.There was a British law banning the hoisting of the Indian Flag. When Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned, it was Patel who led the Satyagraha movement in Nagpur in 1923 against the British law.

After Independence, he became India’s first Deputy Prime Minister. On the first anniversary of Independence, Patel was appointed as the Home Minister of India. He was also in charge of the States Department and the Information and Broadcasting MinistryAs the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India, Patel organised relief efforts for refugees fleeing from Punjab and Delhi and worked to restore peace.

In what was to become Sardar Patel’s most lasting legacy, he took charge of the States Department and was responsible for the accession of 565 princely states into the Union of India. Paying tribute to him, Nehru called Sardar ‘the builder and consolidator of new India.’Patel was a selfless leader, who placed the country’s interests above everything else and shaped India’s destiny with single-minded devotion.

The invaluable contribution of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in building a modern and unified India needs to be remembered by every Indian as the country marches ahead as one of the largest economies in the world.

Image Source: DNA India

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