He was, without a doubt, a frontrunner for the top job of the country at the time of the country’s independence from the British rule. But Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel ended up becoming the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. The Prime Minister’s job went to Jawaharlal Nehru.
And the rest, as you know, is the history that all Indians have been reading in the textbooks for almost 70 years now. But what if Patel had been the Prime Minister instead of Nehru?
Many believe that Patel, being more pragmatic than Nehru, could have made a better PM.
Of course, the Nehru-Gandhi family that has been ruling us for most part since independence have always been highlighting what Nehru has done. However, this does not mean that Nehru was always right.
If Patel had been the PM then:
1. Nehruvian socialism would, probably, never have been implemented in India. Nehru’s socialistic policies was criticised by Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew. Patel believed in capitalism. Eventually, the same Congress government would realise in 1991 that capitalism is a good thing.
2. There would not have been a Pak-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). Nehru was a romantic idealist far removed from reality. He saw Pakistan with rose-tinted glasses. On the other hand, Patel was the ‘Iron Man’ who got the whole of Hyderabad State into the Union of India.
3. There would not have been an Indus Water Treaty (IWT), which is, as you know, favours Pakistan more than India.
4. Unlike Nehru, Patel did not believe in placating anybody. And irrespective of what his critics think, it was the right thing to do. It is this ‘appeasement’ of specific religions, castes, etc., that have dealt the biggest blow to secularism, whether or not self-proclaimed secularists agree.
5. India would have probably aligned itself with the US rather than then USSR. Nehru was a socialist and approved of USSR’s socialism. Patel had capitalistic ideals, so probably would have aligned with the US. In the long run, India’s economy would have been way better than it was at the time of liberalisation.
6. Some Congress sympathisers think that India’s permanent membership in the UN in the early years would have made no difference. The truth is that it is the lack of that membership which is making all the difference to India today in the international arena. Patel would not have been shortsighted enough to make the mistake of passing the opportunity in favour of “big brother” China.
But all of the above depends on one factor – the length of Patel’s reign.
Patel breathed his last on December 15, 1950, so two years of rule would have probably not made much of a difference. But had he lived till say 1964 and elected as many times as Nehru, India’s history would have been different.
Yet at the same time, it is very difficult to predict accurately what would have happened had someone else been at the helm of affairs in the past. A case in point is the massively popular miniseries ‘11.22.63’ which shows the lead character played by James Franco try to rescript US history by preventing the death of John F Kennedy. He succeeds. The outcome? Well, for that you’ll have to see it!