Over the decades after independence, the Left-ideologues dominated the narrative in the educational sphere as well as reigned over various cultural and literary organisations. They deliberately downplayed Sardar Patel’s enormous contribution to nation-building
On January 31, 1948, P Sundarayya, the legendary ‘Comrade PS’, who, as Marxist ideologues and pamphleteers falsely claim participated in the Telangana rebellion against the Nizam’s oppression, in fact accused the one who had actually taken on the Nizam and ended his rule, for conspiring to kill the Mahatma. Addressing a meeting in Vijayawada, ‘Comrade PS’ had accused Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel of planning, in collusion with the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, to kill the Mahatma “with a view to perpetuating fascist rule in India”. A deeply hurt Sardar, enclosing the press cutting of ‘Comrade PS’s’ statement wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru reminding him that he had already forwarded his resignation. In March 1948, a hounded Sardar suffered his first major heart attack which nearly swept him off while the complete integration of princely states in India still remained to be achieved.
This venom-spewing habit never really left the communists. In an issue of the New Age, a mouthpiece of one of the communist dispensations, nearly 23 years after the Sardar’s death, an article, called him the “apostle of right reactionary and communal forces” and accused him of forcing people to “deviate from progressive policies”. That particular article in the New Age went on to argue that “one tragedy of post-independence era is that the first year of freedom found Sardar Patel’s dark shadow cast over the affairs of our newborn state”. In historical retrospect, it noted that “it would stand out that Nehru was a liberal far-sighted democrat with a profound dynamic outlook on world affairs, while Sardar Patel was a die-hard reactionary, given even to communalism and chauvinism. Indeed Patel was a drag on Nehru”.
Even the self-abnegating Maniben Patel, the Sardar’s daughter, who for years not only indefatigably served her father but also maintained an impeccable and meticulous record of his letters and notes, enabling us to draw an idea of his multi-faceted persona, was not spared by another section. Secular Democracy, a mouthpiece of an organisation, Qaumi Ekta Trust, for example, launched a diatribe against her when she began working out to publish the Sardar’s correspondences and lesser known letters without official patronage or support. It accused her of violating the codes of classification!
In reality, Maniben’s determination to disclose her father’s correspondences for the benefit of the people of India made the communists uncomfortable. One of the Sardar’s rare biographers, PN Chopra, was to note, “We can, however, very well appreciate the communists’ dilemma, as Patel’s papers reveal their role which is not very favourable and also explains the background of the continuing Naxalite trouble in Andhra Pradesh.” Through his determined leadership and uncompromising nationalism, Sardar Patel had succeeded in liquidating the Razakar-communist alliance that had then posed a near existential challenge to the fledgling republic of India by fomenting a state of insurrection of genocidal proportion at a time when problems of epic magnitude had besieged India. As the legendary KM Munshi, the Sardar’s right-hand man in the Hyderabad episode, noted, the communist party allied “itself with the Nizam’s Government on an anti-India front” while declaring that the Government of India was essentially capitalist.
It is common knowledge, but needs reiteration, that in the past these very communist ideologues, leaders and visionaries had used some very revealing epithets against other national leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Jayaprakash Narayan, decorating them at various times and occasions with some of the following: “The hirelings of the Axis; the traitor Bose; the paid agents of the enemy; the advance guard of Tojo and Hitler; political pests; a diseased limb that must be amputated; and fifth columnists.” The epithet-distributing habit thus, of the communists and their pamphleteers who pass off as historians or peddlers of historical lies — namely the types of Irfan Habib, who, burdened with failing capacities, are unable to differentiate between the IS and the RSS — is an old one, and one need not be overtly perturbed by such diatribes, and must treat them instead as the manifestations of an increasing collective senility among the Marxists protectors of the ‘Idea of India’ and their less cerebral political benefactors who have sustained their spider-webs across our academic and social science institutions for years.
Sardar Patel, in fact, had well anticipated the communist threat to the Indian republic and to its democratic aspirations, and had displayed the will to take them head-on, terming their action in Hyderabad as those of “murderers and dacoits” bent on creating “dislocation and disruption”. In fact, Munshi, in his memoir of Hyderabad, End of an Era, drew attention to a report submitted by a communist leader, Ravi Narayan Reddy, in 1950, to his own party, which noted that “between February 1948 and August 1950, the well-entrenched communists who had gone underground” in the region “were responsible for 223 murder, 24 kidnapping cases and burning 199 houses”. Sardar Patel was also prescient when he argued, “I do not think communism has much chance in India. The reason is they did not help the struggle for freedom but took advantage of it to consolidate themselves.” Such then has been the historical contributions of the communist parties to India’s post-independence evolution — a legacy that has always and unfailingly reflected violence, division and suppression inspired by a confused sense and understanding of history and of India.
Interestingly, the Sardar was also the victim of awards and of celebratory politics. His centenary fell on October 31, 1975, four months after Indira Gandhi had clamped Emergency. It would have been politically unwise thus to celebrate the centenary of the apostle of unity and freedom. The then ‘liberal’ leadership of the Congress, after paying a perfunctory tribute to Sardar, pulled a silencing curtain over his contributions. It is also common knowledge how Sardar was overlooked for the award of the Bharat Ratna — receiving it only in 1991, four decades after his passing and by when most of the active Congress leaders had conferred on themselves and on one another that award. While pushing through the proposal of conferring Sardar with the Bharat Ratna, the late Madhu Limaye, in his characteristic style, articulated the raison dêtre of the attempt. Terming the Sardar’s omission as “absolutely malicious, an act of vendetta”, Limaye noted with stark candour, “It is this deep-rooted animus of the Nehruite sycophants that dominated governmental, media and academic thinking, that I wished to resist and overcome.”
That ‘deep-rooted animus’ of which the Sardar was a victim, still holds sway, to counter it, to resist it and to eventually uproot and eradicate it shall be a true tribute to Sardar Patel, a true recognition of his everlasting contribution to India.