Vallabhbhai Patel is such a name, which reminds us of the unification of India. The whole credit to unify India goes to Vallabhbhai Patel. Patel was not only a freedom fighter but a renowned barrister and politician also. After returning from England, he started his profession as a barrister in Ahmedabad. He received glory along with a great amount of wealth. Having been inspired by the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi, he leaped into the Indian Independence Movements. From the late 1910s to the Independence of India, Patel faced many imprisonment sentences, participated in many movements. After Independence, Patel became a key figure to the Unification of India and for this work, he earned a famous nickname, Iron Man of India.
Vallabhbhai Patel was born on 31 October 1875 in a Patidar family in Nadiad, Bombay Presidency, British India (Now in Gujarat). He received his primary education in Nadiad, Petlad, and Borsad. In childhood, he came up with an Idea to be a successful lawyer. At the age of 22, he passed matriculation. He used to borrow books from his friends and studied himself. Later, he settled in Godhara with his wife, Jhaverba Patel.
In the late 1900s, Patel came down with the bubonic plague while caring his friend with the same disease. At that time, he immediately sent his family to a safe place as the disease was highly contagious. Sometimes after he recovered from the disease. Patel founded “Edward Memorial High School” in Borsad and was the first chairman of school.
Patel practiced law in Godhra, Borsad, and Anand in Gujarat. But, Patel wanted to go to England to be a barrister, but at that time, he had not money enough to study in England. However, later, at the age of 36, he enrolled at Middle Temple Inn in England. He was brilliant at study so, he completed the 36-months course within 30-months and topped the class despite having no college background. When Patel was studying in England, he was affected by English lifestyle a lot and adopted it interestingly. After returning from England, he was absorbed in the English style. He used to wear suits and speak only in English.
Patel emerged as a great lawyer of Ahmedabad and that profession earned him a great wealth and fame. At that time, he was a great player of Bridge also (A card game). Patel sent his children to an English Medium school in Mumbai. In 1909, Patel’s wife Jhaverba was hospitalised to undergo a surgery of Cancer. Despite successful surgery, she died in hospital. Patel was informed of his wife’s death when he was cross-examining the witness in the court. Patel read the note and put that in the pocket and continued his work.
Patel was born to Jhaverbhai Patel and Ladba. He had four brothers: Somabhai Patel, Narshibhai Patel, Vithalbhai Patel (Legislator), Kashibhai Patel and one sister, Dahiben. He was fourth of his parents after Somabhai, Narshibhai, and Vithalbhai.
At the age of 16, he got married to Jhaverba Patel in 1891. The couple had two children, daughter, Maniben (born in 1904)
and son, Dahyabhai Patel (born in 1906). Gautam Patel and Bipin Patel are his grandsons.
Patel was a skilled barrister. Initially, he was not interested in politics. But, at the urging of his friend, he fought the municipal election in Ahmedabad in 1917 and won. He was elected as a Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad and the same year, he was appointed the secretary of Gujarat Sabha (A political body that helped Gandhi Ji in his campaign). In 1920, he was chosen as the President of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee and served until 1945. From 1924 to 1928, he was the chairman of the Municipal Committee in Ahmedabad. At the time of ‘Salt Satyagraha Movement,’ Patel was the first to be arrested. Indeed, he was arrested on 7 March 1930 but later, he was released in June. Initially, he did not support Mahatma Gandhi. Once Mahatma Gandhi came to the Gujarat Club for a speech. At the same time, Patel was playing bridge at the club. Patel did not go to listen to Mahatma Gandhi. When another activist and his friend G.V. Mavalankar began to go to the speech of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel stopped him and said, “Gandhi would ask you if you know how to shift pebbles from wheat and that is supposed to bring independence.”
When Mahatma Gandhi started the Indigo Revolt in favour of peasants. Patel got influenced by Mahatma Gandhi a lot and a subsequent meeting with Gandhi Ji in October 1917, inclined Patel towards Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology. During the Kheda Satyagraha, Patel came closer to Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi Ji said, “if it were not for Vallabhbhai’s assistance, this campaign would not have been carried through so successfully”. After Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in 1919, Patel supported Gandhi Ji in his Non-Cooperation Movement Patel threw all his English style clothes and began to wear Khadi clothes. For this, he set up bonfires in Ahmedabad in which British clothes, flag, and goods were burned.
In 1932, when Round-Table-Conference failed in London, Patel along with Mahatma Gandhi was arrested and sent to Yeravda Central Jail in Maharashtra and remained there for more than two years until July 1934. On 9, August 1942, during the Quit India Movement, Patel along with other congress members was arrested and detained in the Ahmednagar Fort.
When India got Independence, he was elected as a first deputy Prime Minister of India and was responsible for the Home, States and the Information and Broadcasting portfolios. Although he was the first choice of the people to be the first Prime Minister of India, he could not be and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India. At many issues, he dissented from Jawaharlal Nehru.
He brought 562 princely states together and formed a large Independent State, India. He was the supreme commander-in-chief of Indian Army during Indo-Pakistan War 1947 and Political Integration of India.
- When Patel was the chairman of Municipal community in Ahmedabad, several charges of corruption were registered against him. On 28 April 1922, a case of ‘misrepresentation of funds‘ worth Rs 1.68 lakh was registered against him in Ahmedabad District Court.
- Patel was criticised for being biased against Muslims. He was heavily denounced by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad for accepting Partition of India rapidly.
- Supporters of Subhas Chandra Bose also criticised Patel for putting down the people who were not supporter of Mahatma Gandhi.
During the summer of 1950, Patel’s health declined. His daughter took excessive care of him. After 2 November 1950, his health worsened. He began losing consciousness and confined to bed. On 12 December 1950, he flew to Bombay (Now, Mumbai) on the advice of Dr. Roy. He died on 15 December 1950, after suffering a massive heart attack at Birla House in Bombay.
He was cremated in Sonapur in Bombay and was attended by almost one million people including then Prime Minister Nehru, Rajagopalachari, and President Rajendra Prasad.
In 1991, the govt. of India honoured him posthumously with the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna.
- Patel got married when he was 16 years old, and completed his matriculation at the age of 22.
- Since early childhood, he was a stoic person. He never complained of pains and sorrows of life. Once, he lanced his own painful boil without hesitation.
- After the death of his wife, Patel was compelled by his family to marry again, but he refused. He brought his children up with the help of other family members and sent them to an English medium school in Mumbai.
- He was an expert at playing Bridge, a card game.
- When he was an advocate in Ahmedabad, he helped his brother to enter politics.
- Patel expressed hatred towards RSS after its volunteer Nathuram Godse assassinated him. Despite this, RSS adores the works of Patel.
- Many public institutions have been named after him. His dresses and other things have been preserved in the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial in Ahmedabad.
- 31 October was not his real date of birth. When he was enrolled in matriculation, he mentioned his date of birth on 31 October. This date was introduced by the 14th Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi as “Rashtriya Ekta Diwas” (National Unity Day) in 2014.
- His nicknames are; Sardar, Sardar Patel, Founding Father of India, Iron Man of India, Bismarck of India, Unifier of India.
- The Statue of Unity, his 182-meter statue (World’s tallest statue) has been erected at Sarovar Dam, Garudeshvar in Narmada District of Gujarat. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated this statue on 31 October 2018. The statue was designed by the famous sculpture Ram V. Sutar.
- In 1993, a biopic was made on his life, named, Sardar. The film was directed by Ketan Mehta and written by noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar.