Here’s the Reason Sardar Patel Is Called the ‘Iron Man of India’
On his birth anniversary, we remember why Patel deserved the title of ‘Iron Man of India’.
(This article has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It was originally published on 14 December 2017.)
There are many names given to Vallabhbhai Patel, the barrister from Gujarat who was at first reluctant to join politics, but went on to become one of the architects of modern India. The title ‘Iron Man of India’ was given to Sardar Patel for successfully persuading over 500 princely states to accede to the independent Indian union. While Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had in 1946 warned that no princely state could survive the strength of independent India’s army, Patel used more diplomatic, less abrasive methods, to go about convincing the rulers.
On his death anniversary, we remember why Patel was given the well-deserved title of ‘Iron Man of India’.
Patel, along with his trusted lieutenant VP Menon, presented the princely states with treaties and deals that struck a compromise. The two key documents that were brought forward were the Standstill Agreement and the Instrument of Accession.
For example, the states that enjoyed internal autonomy under the British rule signed a customised accession treaty that only gave three aspects of their rule to the government of India – defence, external affairs, and communications. Whereas the princely states which were, in effect, estates or talukas, where the majority of power was exercised by the British Crown, signed an accession treaty that gave the Government of India the same powers.
To convince the rulers to sign the Instrument of Accession, Patel made several promises and gave them guarantees that they could preserve some of their privileges.
There has been recent debate about who really owns the legacy of Patel, with the BJP building a statue of Patel – “the tallest statue in the world” – in Gujarat, and the Congress accusing the former of attempting to appropriate Patel’s legacy to fit with its own narrative. Patel was, after all, an indispensable member of the Congress party, and was in fact the one to ban the RSS – BJP’s parent organisation – in the aftermath of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
But all political controversy aside, Patel did manage to achieve the impossible task of unifying India, and on his birth anniversary, we remember him.
(This story was first published on 31 October 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Vallabhai Patel’s death anniversary.)
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