From last few years, around October 31, lot of statements from the BJP stable have started coming which eulogise Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. This year (October 2017) was no exception as Modi said, “I am from the BJP and Sardar Patel was from Congress, but I still follow his ideology and beliefs, which belong to no party,”. The BJP, in the past, had even said Nehru didn't attend Patel's funeral. These attempts do have a set political agenda.
As BJP’s ideological camp did not participate in the freedom movement of the country, they do need an icon that was part of the freedom movement of India. In order to appropriate Sardar Patel, BJP is desperately trying to make statements which create a falsehood of differences between Nehru and Patel. These statements eulogise Patel and undermine Nehru. The statue of Patel being planned by Modi is already under construction in China. BJP’s attempt to set opposition between the two major leaders of freedom movement is most despicable to say the least.
Ideologically Modi’s statement that he is following the ideology Patel is a total lie. Patel was an Indian nationalist, a firm follower of Gandhi. On the contrary Modi comes from the ideological stream of RSS which held Gandhi to be responsible for India’s partition, the ideology which killed Gandhi. Patel knew the divisive nature of RSS ideology and its role in spreading hatred. Patel writes, “… as [a] result of the activities of these two bodies [the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha], particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasbha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and the State.”
In contrast to BJP attempt to create a binary between Patel and Nehru, the relationship between them was that of supplementing each other. There was no rivalry. On the one hand Nehru was immensely popular. In a massive rally Patel told American journalist Vincent Sheean, “They come for Jawahar, not for me." On the other hand Patel was the back bone of Congress party as an Organisation. Gandhi who had mandate of the nation asked Nehru to take the responsibility of Prime Minister ship as he knew that Nehru had better understanding of the global politics and was very popular with the masses.
In order propagate Nehru against Patel Modi-BJP are stooping very low when they said that Nehru did not attend the funeral of Patel. This blatant lie was exposed. The Times of India, on front page had covered this event prominently and told the readers about the presence of President Dr Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Pandit Nehru on the occasion. It also published the deep condolences of Nehru who said that Sardar Patel has contributed immensely to the process of India’s freedom and making of India. Congress Leader Digvijay Singh has posted the clip of the documentary showing Nehru attending the funeral. Also Morarji Desai in his autobiography, Story of My Life - Volume I page 271, para 2 mentioned the presence of Pandit Nehru on the occasion. In the face of this Modi later did retract the statement, and usual things about being misquoted etc were dished out.
Trying to create a distance between Congress-Nehru and Patel, Modi stated in a meeting that Congress ‘facilitated Partition’ (Narendra Modi while talking in Kheda in Gujarat). This is a very motivated statement. As a matter of fact the two major leaders who were handling the negotiations on behalf of Congress at that time were Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah, taking one sided view blames Nehru-Patel for partition. Partition was a multi layered phenomenon. Patel is being praised for his contribution and Congress is being blamed for partition. This is untrue as it was Nehru-Patel duo, which was acting together on the issue of India’s partition. “VP Menon, the architect of the Partition Plan, said that Patel ‘accepted the division of India in December 1946, while Nehru would only acquiesce six months later’.”
The attempts to present that Nehru and Patel were on different paths was propagated earlier also. Disturbed by that Nehru wrote to Patel, saying that he is disturbed and hurt by that such rumors. In response to the letter Patel wrote (May 5, 1948): “I am deeply touched…We both have been lifelong comrades in a common cause. The paramount interests of our country and our mutual love and regard, transcending such differences of outlook and temperament as existed, have held us together.” And stated in the parliament “I am one with the Prime Minister on all national issues. For over a quarter of a century, both of us sat at the feet of our master (Gandhi, added) and struggled together for the freedom of India. It is unthinkable today, when the Mahatma is no more, that we should quarrel.”
On the issue of Kashmir also attempt is being made as if they had differing approach and that Patel would have forced merger of Kashmir with India. Let’s see what Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had to say on the matter way back. He said at a public meeting in Bombay on October 30, 1948: “Some people consider that a Muslim majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realize that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be there, we shall not be there even for a minute... We shall not let Kashmir down.” (HT, October 31, 1948)
As Patel points out in his letters and interventions in Parliament, these two great leaders had a great rapport and respect for each other. The false propaganda of BJP will definitely bite the dust.