Popularly known as the ‘Iron Man of India’ or ‘Bismarck of India’, Sardar Patel is among the most influential political icons of India. The first deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of independent India, Patel was instrumental in the unification of 555 princely states and setting up a democratic federal set up in the country. His role in the formation of modern All India Services is also imperative. Patel also played a key role in the freedom struggle rubbing shoulders with the Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. It would be no exaggeration if we label him as the chief architect of independent India who sailed us through turbulent times with his rock solid leadership.
Here are 8 lesser-known facts about Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel:
8. Attachment to Mahatma:
Sardar Patel’s extremely close attachment to Mahatma Gandhi can be drawn from the fact that after Gandhiji’s death, his condition also started to deteriorate. He suffered a major heart attack within two months of Gandhi’s death.
7. Farmer by Birth and Nature:
Patel was born in a peasant family to a father who had served in the army of the Queen of Jhansi. He worked in fields with his father and observed a day long fast twice a month. This provided him nerves of steel and hence known as ‘Iron Man of India’. It is because he came from a very humble background, he always had a soft corner for the poor of the country.
6. Guarantee Payment of Privy Purses:
It’s one of the rarest facts which find faint mention in the history of the country, but it was Patel, who persuaded the Constituent Assembly to guarantee payment of Privy Purses. This would have preserved the rights of erstwhile rulers. But, Congress rejected the proposal outrightly.
5. No record of Date of Birth:
The actual date of birth of Sardar Patel doesn’t find any official mention in the records. 31 October, the date we follow is on the basis of birth date mentioned on his matriculation examination papers. However, his place of birth is certain to be Karamsad.
4. Patel was diseased by Bubonic Plague:
There was a time when Gujarat was hit by the Bubonic Plague. One of Patel’s good friends also got infected with the deadly disease and out of courtesy; he lived with him to take his care. But, he himself came down with the disease. Thereafter, he moved away from his family immediately and took refuge in an isolated dilapidated temple in Nadiad. Here he spent some time and only returned back after recovering fully.
3. Opposed existence of RSS:
A fact that very few Indians know if at all, that the first Home Minister of independent India advocated banning Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). The hard-line Hindu faction that was headed by Golwalkar during was considered as communal poison (that was allegedly responsible for taking away life of Mahatma Gandhi) and he admitted this openly often to the press too.
2. Last confrontation with Nehru:
Although, Sardar Patel was involved in various healthy confrontations with Nehru regarding governance, the one where first Prime Minister of India accused him of being communal broke the chord between the two for once and forever. MKK Nair, a 1947 batch IAS officer, writes in his memoir ‘With No Ill Feeling to Anybody’ – during one of the scuffle between the two, Nehru addressed him being communal. And, soon after, Patel packed his stuff and rushed out of the meeting feeling humiliated. As said, since that day Patel didn’t communicate on face with Nehru.
1. Patron Saint of India civil servants:
Sardar Patel always believed that due to extensive diversity and multiple cultures & languages, India needs a strong bureaucratic set up. He played a constructive role in creation of Indian Administrative Services (IAS). The earlier Indian Civil Services Code (ICS), drafted by the Britishers suited only their own interests, and later it was diluted by the Bismarck of India to create a better bureaucratic structure that works for the betterment of the country. This is how he came to be known as ‘Patron Saint’ for Indian civil servants for establishing modern All India Services.