On the Occasion of Sardar Patel’s Birth Anniversary

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Unique and Devoted Sardar

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a great leader. For the freedom, progress, unity and integrity of the country, whatever work he has done, proved that he was a unique personality filled with dedication and devotion.

He accepted Gandhiji as his political preceptor and leader in 1918 on the eve of launch of the Kisan Satyagraha in the Kaira district of Gujarat. After that his dedication for Gandhiji proved to be matchless in the entire Gandhian era of the Indian Freedom Movement.

Vallabhbhai’s dedication for Gandhiji could be seen to such an extent that he never forgot to wash the dish or to clean chappals of his preceptor. Furthermore, while staying with Gandhiji, whatever service he could do for him, he had done it. Moreover, in the Congress Committee, whenever there would be a voting for any resolution, he would see that in which direction Gandhiji’s hand rose up; he also raised up his hand in that very direction.

By seeing Vallabhbhai’s dedication and devotion for the Mahatma, many of his contemporaries believed that he was a blind follower of Mahatma Gandhi. But he was not a blind follower of him. He was firmly determined. He used to talk to Gandhiji in a clear-cut language. Fearlessness was in his blood and bone.

In this context the episode relating to the library of the Gujarat Vidyapeeth of Ahmedabad can be seen for an example. Gandhiji himself had founded the Gujarat Vidyapeeth and also set up a library in it in the beginning of the second decade of the Twentieth Century.

In those days Kakasaheb Kalelkar was the Principal of the Vidyapeeth. As per the advice of Kalelkar, Gandhiji handed over the charge of Vidyapeeth’s library to the Municipality of Ahmedabad. Since the Gujarat Vidyapeeth had its trust to manage its various faculties including the library, any decision regarding handing over its charge to the Municipality could be taken only by its trustees in a meeting. Vallabhbhai was one of the trusties [of the above trust]. But Gandhiji himself took up the decision, and at that time Vallabhbhai was not in Ahmedabad.

After sometime, when Vallabhbhai reached back to Ahmedabad, he came to know of Gandhiji’s decision. Immediately he saw Bapu, and asked him, “Bapu! How did you alone take the decision to handover the library to the Municipality? Had you got the right to do so?”

Gandhiji heard him speechlessly. Vallabhbhai told him, “Bapu! You have to withdraw your decision. The Vidyapeeth has its own trust, which can take any decision by majority. Yes, you can present your opinion, if any, before the trust.”

“Yes, it was my fault indeed”, Gandhiji accepted it. He told Vallabhbhai that he would correct his fault and would write to the Municipality to give back the charge of library to the Vidyapeeth. And, immediately he wrote to the Municipality about his non-democratic decision. As a result, the Vidyapeeth got its library back again. Such was the firmness and frankness of Vallabhbhai.

Vallabhbhai was a true follower of Gandhiji. He was fully devoted to the Mahatma. He considered him as his father. The path taken by Gandhiji for the welfare of his compatriots in prevailing conditions was the best one. Particularly, it was most relevant for the freedom of the country. Therefore, he accepted the Mahatma as his preceptor.

As known to us, his elder brother Vithalbhai Patel, whom Vallabhbhai considered as his father and gave all respect to him, had also emerged as one of the stalwarts on the horizon of India’s politics in the end of the second decade of the Twentieth Century, but Vallabhbhai accepted Gandhiji as his Guru and leader and not his brother. In 1920, during the time of the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movement, Vallabhbhai declared that he had locked himself and had given the key to Bapu.

In fact, there is a special joy in devotion and dedication. Shri Rama is in the centre of the Ramayana, and next to him people consider according to their own understanding are Sita, Laxmana, Hanumana, Bharata. It is natural because devotion of all of them to Shri Rama is better than another. That is why; they are also considered as great characters. But in the entire Gandhian era of India’s Freedom Movement, in spite of presence of personalities like Rajendra Prasad, Abul Ghaffar Khan and Sarojini Naidu, who were loyal to Gandhiji, it was only Vallabhbhai Patel who had uttered that he had locked himself and given the key to Bapu. Firmly it can be said that all of them believed in Gandhian philosophy and they were following the footprints of the Mahatma, but among them Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the only one who had become happy to lock him and by giving its key to Gandhiji.

He was such a unique and devoted leader.

Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, Indologist, political scientist and a former vice chancellor of Meerut University, India, who authored and edited over 100 works on great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and on various social-cultural issues.