By Supriya Sharma:
All this while, I abstained myself from indulging in the “Who will be our next PM” debate, secretly hoping for some miracle to happen, a third alternative (not a third front mind you!) to show up, to rescue us from the torturous prime time Rahul vs Modi debates. Yes, I am a case of hopeless optimism, and I still think a democracy like ours deserves a choice beyond the two mentioned above.
I chose to express myself, as an ardent history lover who took offence on the misuse of history by conveniently skewing facts and generating ridiculous hypothesis for the sake of politics. Unfortunately, Sardar Patel falls in the slot this time. The patriot in me weeps to hear about the sad state of affairs where Patel has been dragged into the arena of dirty politics, by ignorant politicians claiming his legacy, and the blunders that followed in the misinterpretation(or misrepresentation) of the history that we all claim to be so proud of.
I am still okay with that as it doesn’t matter, if you wish to derive your thoughts from the man who for long was an inspiration for many, who was perhaps the only one who could accomplish the task of integrating over 500 provinces successfully, a statesman, a leader, the founding father of the republic of India. But then, how on earth can you thrust your own made up philosophies and claim that’s what Sardar Patel preached. Something, I think is a big insult and a matter of shame for us, for we could not appreciate the leaders for their thoughts and their ideals. May be we failed to understand the depth of thoughts carried by Sardar Patel, a man of high integrity and moral strength.
Leaving the Nehru-Patel controversy behind, as it looks from outside, if we dig deeper and understand the mutual respect and regard they carried for the differences, we shall be amazed. Because the debate never was as to who should have been the first Prime Minister, that was long resolved by Gandhi’s verdict when he chose Nehru over Patel as his successor. And a person who places even a tad bit of belief in Gandhi, his decisions and his core philosophies, should perhaps not question the same, especially not when Sardar Patel himself had no qualms in accepting Nehru as Prime Minister. As mentioned in his biography, Patel while addressing the masses in Indore on Gandhi’s Birth Anniversary had said, “Now that Gandhi is gone, Jawaharlal Nehru is our leader. Bapu (Gandhi) appointed him as his successor and had even proclaimed him as such. It is the duty of all Bapu’s soldiers to carry out his bequest. I am not a disloyal soldier.”
Patel, being a man of his words, kept the promise he had made to Gandhi to work and cooperate with Nehru. The times, when words carried such meaning, are long gone now! With much reluctance, I would tread in the area much tabooed — the debate about secularism. In a nation as diverse as ours, the meaning of secularism also varies in connotation and context. Fellows, of RSS or of non-RSS (I won’t call them secular) school of thought who are bickering about the ‘Iron Man’ legacy are not exactly sure of Patel’s views on religion or RSS. I would take a reference from the letters of Sardar Patel to S.P. Mukherjee and M.S. Golwalkar, which clearly give an idea of what he thought about the RSS and the Hindu Raj!
“All their (RSS) leaders’ speeches were full of communal poison. As a final result of the poison, an atmosphere was created in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhi’s assassination) became possible”
Also, he was much averse to the idea of a politics based on religion. He in his speech has said “Hindu Raj…that mad idea.” (February 1949). He was thus secular to the core, as against the claims made by some politicians who associate him with the RSS league.
If Patel were alive today, he would have been deeply saddened to see what kind of people are fighting to claim his legacy.
Aren’t we all the true inheritors of the legacy of Patel irrespective of what party we belong to, to what school of thought we allege to. Instead of skewing facts to claim some “legacy”, shouldn’t we all try to imbibe some if not all the qualities of this simple man of agrarian roots who went on to becoming the Iron Man of India, and a legend.
Finally, if it is all about choosing the right candidate for Prime Minister, let me just leave you with this thought. I have really lowered down my expectations from the next Prime Minister of our country. But is expecting some basic understanding of history, respect for India’s glorious past and appreciation of our freedom fighter’s ideologies without any manipulation, too much to ask for?