Vallabhbhai Patel
File photo of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel | Commons
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New Delhi: The BJP and the Congress finally settled their claims over Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the 73rd Independence Day — or so it seemed from the way the two parties chose to celebrate one to the exclusion of the other Thursday.

The Congress tweeted a video of India’s first prime minister’s famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, saying: “At the stroke of the midnight hour… India completes 72 years of Independence. Tonight we look back at the man & the speech that our nation will always remember.” There was no mention of his deputy, Patel, either in the party’s official tweet or in the reactions of any of its top leaders.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped any mention of Nehru, choosing to pay tributes to the country’s first home minister by reiterating his commitment to realise Sardar Patel’s goal of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshth Bharat’ or ‘One India, Best India’. “Removal of Article 370 and Article 35A within 10 weeks of coming to power was an important step towards realising Sardar Patel’s dreams,” said Modi.

His and the Congress’ reactions underlined the political legacies the ruling and the principal opposition parties were seeking to own up.

Also read: No, Nehru didn’t hoist India’s first tricolour at Red Fort. And British flag wasn’t lowered

Congress’ broadside against Patel

Anxious to absolve Nehru from any blame over Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir, the Congress has launched a broadside against Patel, a party stalwart who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Nehru during the freedom movement and together shaped Independent India in its initial years.

The Modi-led BJP has, for long, been seeking to appropriate the political legacy of Sardar Patel, and has claimed that if the state’s accession to India was handled by him, and not Nehru, “the history of Jammu and Kashmir would have been different”, as Union minister Jitendra Singh put it in the Lok Sabha last week.

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Though Patel was also a leading light of the Congress, the party is digging up past records and history to try to shield Nehru either by portraying the then home minister as part of the decision-making process on Kashmir or by projecting him as a prime mover.

On Tuesday, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted a page from Rajmohan Gandhi’s book, Patel: A Life, that stated that had Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, “allowed” Hyderabad and Junagadh “to go to India” (which eventually happened), “Patel, as we have seen, might have let the Queen (Kashmir) go to Pakistan, but Jinnah rejected the deal.”

Ramesh tweeted another page from another book — Integration of Indian States by V.P. Menon — in which Lord Mountbatten was quoted as telling Maharaja Hari Singh that if he acceded to Pakistan, “India would not take it amiss and that he had a firm assurance from Sardar Patel himself”.

Amitabh Dubey, Gandhi family friend Suman Dubey’s son, who is associated with the Professional Congress, was quick to retweet Ramesh’s post, adding, “Patel was much less enthusiastic about Kashmir’s accession than Nehru.”

The debate on Article 370 has only brought out the ambiguity and confusion in the Congress camp vis-à-vis Patel. The Congress accused the government of resorting to “legislative authoritarianism” to “illegally” defang Article 370, but refrained from defending its existence. During a debate on this issue in the Lok Sabha on 6 August, when BJP president Amit Shah wanted to know from the Congress whether it was against the removal of Article 370, Congress leader Manish Tewari skirted it, saying everything was not black or white and there were “50 shades of grey” in between.

Also read: Sardar Patel wanted RSS to be merged into Congress but Nehru & Golwalkar stood in way

BJP takes Patel’s side, again

The BJP has been attacking Nehru for the insertion of these provisions in the Constitution and maintains that Kashmir wouldn’t be a problem if Patel had handled its accession to India. Article 370 is, in fact, only the latest in a long-drawn battle between the Congress and the BJP over Patel’s legacy.

When Modi inaugurated Patel’s statue, the Statue of Unity, in Gujarat last year, the Congress called it an election gimmick and questioned the rationale of installing an imposing statue of a leader who believed in simplicity and Gandhism.

BJP leaders have been taking swipes at the Congress for praising only the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family and ignoring the contributions of those outside it. In the last Parliament session, Modi took a jibe at the opposition party for its refusal to celebrate the contributions of former prime ministers who did not belong to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

It was the NDA government that conferred the Bharat Ratna on former President of India and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, but the Congress never thought of giving it to former PMs Narasimha Rao or Dr Manmohan Singh because it “sees nothing outside the family”, Modi said in the Lok Sabha on 25 June as Sonia Gandhi, sitting across the well in the house, looked on angrily.

Also read: What Nehru wrote to Sardar Patel on Kashmir & its ‘oblivious’ Hindu Maharaja


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12 Comments Share Your Views


  1. No party, neither Congress nor BJP owns Nehru, Patel or Gandhi. They are our National treasure.

    You can’t snatch anything from anyone who doesn’t own it. Nor can you own anything which was never yours.

  2. If Nehru was a mountain, Sardar Patel was a blade of grass. There were far greater leaders than Sardar Patel who received far less recognition like Rajaji, Dr. Pattabhi. Patel’s only qualification was to be born a Gujarati, which was why Modi mentions him. Nehru government unified India. Apart from being minister in charge, old and sick Patel’s contributions were insignificant. Patel’s other advantage was that he died earlier than his comrades and hence later were generous in eulogy.

  3. Can you name one RSS Hindu maha sabha etc hibdutva morons in indipendance movement?
    They appropriate leftists like Bose, bhagath Singh and gandhians like Patel .
    Can they tell us why a brilliant RAjaji was not made President by the rightist conspiracy .
    How many gujrathis are in army all these years?
    What is modis contribution to Indian economy which is in doldrums.
    Congressmen are idiots who cannot project themselves while traitors are projecting themselves in today’s India.
    Yes .who ever is anti Gandhi anti constitution and anti Nehru is a traitor.

  4. The unwillingness of the Congress party to provide space or recognition to anyone outside the original Gandhi and the subsequent Nehru Dynasty has come as a godsend to the BJP. They are free to claim and highlight every other stalwart of the independence movement.

  5. Congress peddled a million lies on the country, all in the name of it’s first family. Every town in the country has Nehru statues. Almost every institution, airport and major project was named after Nehru. It was a deliberate and calculated effort to infiltrate the minds of Indians with Nehru’s exclusive greatness. All to cover up his monumental failures as a leader of a young nation and to manufacture a false narrative. Let this be a lesson to future megalomaniacs and their chamchas – truth always catches up, sooner or later.

  6. Tweeting Nehru’s speech is not going to help Congis.
    At issue is RaGa being (1) complete anti National traitor, India hater and 2) stupid

    Nehru, Indira, Rajiv were patriots. They all would be ashamed to note RaGa is a traitor and speaks for Lashkar e Taiba.

  7. 370 has become another toll for political slugfast. The article may have been required when then Maharaja reluctantly opted to annex JK with India m. Both Nehruji and Patelji are not alive, so present day leaders should stop using them to create a divide. If we continue like this we don’t need Pakistan

  8. BJP Scoundrels are not having any to leader to name from india’s independence movement that is why usurping people from congress the same way they usurp people from other parties everyday in the new india. What they have done to goa and Karnataka MLAs is the best example. They cannot develop any one from their party. They lack vision moral etc.

    • And yet the Mood of the Nation survey by India Today, disclosed yesterday, shows ever increasing support for BJP and decimation of almost all opposition parties. What does this say about the quality of Opposition leadership, including Shri Rahul Gandhi?

  9. Sometimes we are thrown history that only few people got our independence from Britishers. Some theorists still believe that British walked out on their own as WWII took toll on them and started leaving their colonies. Congress as a party brow beats on only two candidate Gandhi (original) and Nehru. Then legacy of Gandhi original was transferred to Frroz to look Indira is also Gandhi clan, apart from Nehru clan. Congress as party never give credit to any past Presidents of the party outside the Nehru clan (the can added Gandhi name later). In the process they lost narration about Gokhale, Subash Chandra Bose, Abul Kalam Azad, Bapu Rajendra Prasad, PV Narasimha Rao and the last one outside Gandhi family being Sitaram Kesari. Since then it is a domain of Italian family to manage with Gandhi surname. No reprising that other people have targeted to lift few Congressis into their fold. End of the day, lots of water has moved in Ganges and Brahmaputra and these history of who did what has no relevance today.

  10. India’s independence was great teamwork. By NOT acknowledging these personalities, both sides are showing their narrow-mindedness. Most of all it is the Congress which is reinforcing its dynastic psyche because BJP has always acted rebellious on these issues.

    Having said that, the argument ‘what if Patel had become the PM?’ should be buried. These kinds of ‘what-if’ arguments could be stretched further back in history with the question ‘what if Dara Shikoh – the great Mughal liberal and Sanskrit scholar – had become the Emperor of India instead of his extremely right-wing brother Aurangzeb?’

  11. One is not sure there are any sparks left in these ashes of history, long turned cold and lifeless. Not one parliamentary seat today could turn on either Pandit Nehru or his deputy. As for Kashmir, however it came to be the jewel in our crown, we should look to the future, to the happiness, prosperity and well being of its people. Not seen through rolls of concertina wire. Downtown Srinagar itself has a shabby, worn out look, not Zurich or even Davos. Perhaps one reason we turn so often to the past is because we are unable to create the future India is capable of. When Unnao and Kathua happen so often, what is the relevance of debates in the Constituent Assembly.


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