Hypothetically, had Sardar Patel become the first Prime Minister, India would be very different, but not better. During an election rally in Madhya Pradesh, Narendra Modiji had claimed that farmers would have not been ruined if Sardar Patel had become the first prime minister. Modiji is not only acknowledging his own incompetence as the prime minister but telling the farmers that they have no hope since Sardar Patel can never become the first Prime Minister. Sardar Patel, who died within three-and-half years after India’s Independence could have been a better PM than Narendra Modi but there is no evidence, nor rationale to suggest that he could be better than Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru’s association with farmers started with an unplanned yet momentous trip to nearby Partabgarh in June 1920. Anybody who read Nehru’s autobiography would understand the compassion Nehru felt for the farmers and his appreciation of their living and working conditions. Zamindari Abolition Act of 1950 paved way for land reforms in UP and Bihar. From Bhakra and Hirakund to Nagarjunasagar, the dams that Nehru built across the country have been irrigating our lands for decades. Nearly 45% of the budget of the first 5-year plan was dedicated to irrigation and agriculture.
Sardar Patel as well as Subhas Chandra Bose have died too early with reference to the time of independence. Their friends and enemies were hence too kind and generous in their eulogies. Their achievements were exaggerated, and their flaws were ignored and even justified. With passage of time, the memories have faded, and these exaggerations and justifications have taken a life of their own. Subhas Chandra Bose is now being credited with bringing our independence and Sardar Patel with “unification of the country” without any blame for “partition of the country”. While the nation mindlessly believes these narratives today, at some point some child will notice that the emperor has no clothes!
More deserving to become Prime Minister than Sardar Patel was Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) whom Mahatma Gandhi once considered as his political successor. Sensing threat from Rajaji, Home Minister Sardar Patel sent Rajaji away to Bengal as the governor in August 1947. However, Nehru brought him back to Delhi as the Governor General when Louis Mountbatten left. Nehru planned to continue Rajaji as the first President of the republic but was sabotaged by Sardar Patel in favor of Rajendra Prasad.
Any speculation of what could happen if someone else became the first PM is futile and unintelligent. Jawaharlal Nehru becoming Prime Minister was never in question after Congress adopted his Purna Swaraj resolution at midnight on December 31, 1929 under his own Presidency at Lahore. Overcoming the reluctance from his own father Motilal Nehru and the Mahatma himself, Nehru declared independence from British Rule on January 26, 1930 from the banks of River Ravi. That day hence forth was celebrated as the Independence Day until 1947 and later as the Republic Day.
Barring Mahatma Gandhi himself, no other Indian politician ever matched the stature of Nehru in India or abroad. Nehru was adored by entire spectrum of Indians across the barriers of caste, education, region, religion, language, gender and age. Nehru’s influence was not limited to British administered provinces where Congress’ activities were confined. By 1939, Nehru became the permanent President of All India States Peoples Conference (ASPC) which represented 40% of the Indians who lived in Princely States.
From LK Advani to Narendra Modi, they’ve both claimed that Congress elected Sardar Patel (not Nehru) as the PM. Ironically, it was the same Congress that Mahatma Gandhi thought of as corrupt and wanted to disband!
It is deplorable that a Prime Minister (Modi) and a long time aspirant (Advani) don’t understand the simple fact that Indian Prime Ministers are not elected by Congress but by the Parliament (then called the Constituent Assembly). If Congress or the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) elected the Indian Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi would have been the one in 2014!
This myth was probably started by the movie Sardar (1993) in which the character of Mahatma Gandhi declares that whoever becomes the President of Congress would also become the Prime Minister. He then goes on to persuade Sardar Patel to withdraw his nomination for Congress President in favor of Nehru. For all the merits of that movie, this depiction was shameful yet laughably ridiculous.
Firstly, the post of Prime Minister did not even exist around June 1946 when this Congress Presidential Election took place. Nehru was in fact called the Vice President of the Viceroy’s Executive Council and would not be sworn-in as the Prime Minister until August 1947.
Secondly, Indian National Congress’ “inherent right to rule over India” was not accepted at any time by anybody including the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Dalit, Zamindar, Bengali and Dravidian parties. Within two months of this election, (and the subsequent Congress victory in the Provincial Elections), Muslim League had launched “Direct Action”, which resulted in deaths of at least a million people and unspeakable horror, just to prove they were not second fiddle to Congress.
If Mahatma Gandhi really said that the Congress President will automatically become the Prime Minister of (undivided) India without any need for winning any elections, he would be guilty of arrogance and responsible for provoking the Muslim League. Congress may be unwise and irresponsible, but Gandhi was not. Instead, Gandhi was floating the idea of handing the government to Jinnah and his all Muslim cabinet.
Traditionally, Congress Presidents were elected in December and not in June. Yet, Gandhi asked the incumbent Maulana Azad (who was in his 6th consecutive term) to resign in preparation for Provincial Elections in accordance with Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946. It was well known that nobody could win elections except Nehru, since Gandhi would never campaign for Congress. Nehru was the President when Congress swept the Provincial Elections earlier in 1937.
While Sardar Patel and JB Kriplani have thrown in their hats, the post was made vacant for Nehru and Nehru alone. While Nehru was a mass leader, Sardar Patel was a parochial leader involved in party politics. The PCC office bearers were close to Patel and their nominating Patel should be no surprise. But PCCs had no authority to elect AICC President, let alone the Prime Minister. Nor did PCCs have the exclusive authority to nominate AICC presidential candidates.
Ever since Gandhi reorganized the AICC in 1921, his choice for President being the unanimous was the practice with sole exception of Dr. Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya in 1939. So, Gandhi’s nomination of Nehru as President in June 1946 was neither unusual nor unfair by any standards. If Gandhi did let Kriplani or Patel become the President, Muslim League would win even more seats and walk away with even more territory instead of the “moth-eaten Pakistan”.
During a rally at Mahabubnagar, Modiji had repeated his ridiculous claim of Indians requiring Visa to visit Hyderabad. Hyderabad was annexed by Governor General Rajaji. The ninety per cent-Hindu Hyderabad was surrounded by the Indian territory and hence going nowhere. Moreover, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan never entertained any idea of merging with Pakistan.
Handing credit to Sardar Patel for annexation of Hyderabad not only insults Rajaji but entire people of Telangana and the entire south India. People of Telangana should tell BJP to stop making these insulting claims that they would be in Pakistan but for a Gujarati who neither had any power nor any command of military nor knew anything about the people of Telangana. Narendra Modi is insulting the patriotism, activism and sacrifices of our ancestors.