While speaking at Gujarat Gaurav Sammelan on October 16 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, perhaps inadvertently, forgot to mention the name of one person who ‘conspired’, more than anyone else, against the Gujaratis. He was none else but Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, who was himself a Gujarati.
In spite of the fact that 12 out of 15 Regional Congress Committees favoured the candidature of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the Mahatma backed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who ultimately became the first Prime Minister of independent India.
Incidentally, the rest three Regional Congress Committees did not support Nehru as PM.
Modi not only held the Jawaharlal Nehru-Indira Gandhi family responsible for conspiring against Patel but later played the same game against fellow Gujarati, Morarji Desai. And when he actually became the Prime Minister a propaganda was carried on what he used to drink.
Modi linked all these anti-Gujarati sentiment with himself and alleged that all attempts were made to put him in jail.
Curiously, Gandhiji threw his lot behind Nehru notwithstanding the fact that he, in the early stage of politics, did promote Patel and had on several counts differences with Panditji.
Some independent historians are of the view that Gandhi was not only enamoured by Nehru, but also succumbed to pressure from the latter.
Gandhi was well aware that only one person can become the first Prime Minister of the country and opted for relatively young and healthy Nehru. Patel was aged and not in the best of health too.
From hindsight it can be said that Gandhi’s decision was right. He himself was assassinated on January 30, 1948 and Sardar Patel died on December 15, 1950. The country would have become destabilized had Nehru become not the first PM.
In the initial years India underwent pangs of partition. Then comes the Communist rebellion in Telangana. Side by side the Kashmir issue cropped up. There was a challenge of integration of India and abolition of princely states.
Nehru and Patel, the deputy PM cum home minister fully cooperated with each other. There was hardly any major discord over the issue of nation-building then.
One can say that Nehru, like, many others too, had committed mistakes. But had the first Prime Minister not ruled for 17 years to give a certain direction the country would not have consolidated itself so quickly.
The issue of Sardar Patel has not been raised for the sake of Gujarati pride but to woo the Patels who are now a disillusioned lot.
It is with this objective in mind that Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, got built a huge statue of Sardar Patel. This is said to be tallest in the world. Yet it can not dwarf Gandhi, who does not need any iron and cement structure to define his stature.
Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. He writes for different prominent dailies.