Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875-1950)

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was born on 31 October 1875 at Nadiad in Gujarat in an agriculturist family. After a course in law Vallabhbhai moved to Borsad in 1902, a town in the Kheda district, to set up practice as a defence lawyer. In 1910 he sailed for England and joined the Middle Temple. Here he worked so hard and conscientiously that he topped in Roman law, securing a prize, and was called to the Bar at the end of two years instead of the usual period of three years.

With struggle for freedom being intensified Vallabhbhai left his lucrative legal practice and gave himself up wholly to political work. It was in 1928 that the villagers of Bardoli under the leadership of Vallabhbhai decided to go against the British Government on the issue of the increase of land revenue. The grim struggle drew the attention of the whole country. Ultimately the Government had to bow before popular resolve. It was a triumph not only of the 80 thousand peasants of Bardoli but more particularly of Vallabhbhai, who was given the title of ‘Sardar’ by the nation for his great leadership.

When India attained Independence Vallabhbhai became the Deputy Prime Minister and was responsible for the Home, States and the Information and Broadcasting portfolios. It was in this capacity that he was called upon to tackle the most intricate and baffling problem of the States’ integration into the Union of India. And it is here that his tact, his powers of persuasion and his statesmanship came into full play. He handled it, managing in less than a year’s time, to reduce the Princely States from 562 to 26 administrative units. The integration of the States could certainly be termed as the crowning achievement of Vallabhbhai Patel’s life. He sorted out the problems of partition, restored law and order and dealt with the rehabilitation of thousands of refugees with great courage and foresight. He reorganised and formed a new Indian Administrative Service, to provide a stable administrative base to the new democracy.

He was thus one of the chief architects and guardians of India’s freedom and his contribution towards consolidating the freedom of the country remains unrivalled. On 15 December 1950 the ‘iron-man’ of India who had fulfilled the duties towards his countrymen passed away.