Sardar Vallabhai Patel was a Constituent Assembly member elected from Bombay province: he was a prominent freedom fighter, statesman and the first Home Minister of independent India. 31st October will mark his 143rd birth anniversary.

Patel played a crucial role in the integration of princely states with India. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly Negotiating Committee which worked closely with the Negotiating Committee set up by the Chamber of Princes. The aim of this committee was to distribute Princely States seats in the Assembly according to the Cabinet Mission Plan, 1946. The efforts of this committee resulted in 16 members from 7 Princely States participate in the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly on 28th April 1947.

Patel along with his secretary V. P. Menon forged a formidable partnership and worked together to get all the Princely States to accede to India. As Ramachandra Guha noted (India After Gandhi):

 “They played ‘divide and rule’, bringing some princes on side early, unsettling the rest. They played on the childlike vanities of the maharajas, allowing them, to retain their titles and sometimes giving them new ones. But, like the British in the eighteenth century, they kept their eye firmly on the main chance: material advantage. For, as Patel told the officials of the state ministry, ‘we do not want their women and their jewellery – we want their land.”

 

Patel's family on his 74th birth anniversary.

After independence Patel was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister and was in charge of Home, States, and Information and Broadcasting departments.

Nehru and Patel had disagreed on several issues. A. S. Iyenagr in “All Through the Gandhian Era” characterized Nehru as a visionary and idealist, while Patel as a pragmatist and realist. When the Congress party had to choose India’s first President, Nehru pushed for C. Rajagopalachari’s name. He had in fact promised Rajaji his seat in the Rastrapathi Bhavan. However, Patel had a different plan: he believed Rajendra Prasad to be a better candidate and the Congress party sided with him.

Some argue that the relationship between Patel and Nehru is often misrepresented as hostile to deepen partisan politics. With Narendra Modi’s claim that Patel would have been a better Prime Minister than Nehru and the grand plan to unveil Patel’s statue tomorrow, historians characterize this as a political stunt aimed to attack Congress’ dynasty and hide Government’s failures.