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Books > History > Patel: A Life - The Best Biography of Sardar Patel
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Patel: A Life - The Best Biography of Sardar Patel
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About the Book

The establishment of independent India derived legitimacy and power, broadly speaking, from the exertions of three men, Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. But while its acknowledgements are fulsome in the case of Nehru and dutiful in the case of Gandhi, they are niggardly in the case of Patel. "That there is today an India to think and talk about," President Rajendra Prasad wrote in his diary on May l3, 1959 "is very largely due to Sardar Patel's statesmanship and firm administration:' "Yet;' added Prasad, "we are apt to ignore him:'

... the curtain drawn on the life of one of modern India's most remarkable sons has been only occasionally and partially lifted. To fling it wide and let today's generation see Vallabhbhai Patel's life is my privilege. It is not a perfect man's life and I have neither wanted nor tried to hide Patel's imperfections. But some at least may feel after knowing his life that Patel is a man to remember gratefully in good times and as a benchmark of India's potential when the times seem depressing or daunting.

Whether or not Gandhi was unjust to Patel when the moment arrived to select free India's first Premier is a question that frequently crops up. The answer disclosed by my inquiry will be found in these pages. But the opinion of some that the Mahatma had been less than fair to Vallabhbhai was a factor in my decision to attempt to write the latter's life. If a wrong had been perpetrated, some reparation from one of the Mahatma's grandsons would be in order. In addition I seek to discharge the obligation of a citizen to a founder of his nation ....

 

Preface

The establishment of independent India derived legitimacy and power, broadly speaking, from the exertions of three men, Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. But while its acknowledgements are fulsome in the case of Nehru and dutiful in the case of Gandhi, they are niggardly in the case of Patel. "That there is today an India to think and talk about," President Rajendra Prasad wrote in his diary on May 13, 1959, "is very largely due to Sardar Patel's statesmanship and firm administration." "Yet," added Prasad, "we are apt to ignore him." Falling in 1989, the centenary of Jawaharlal's birth found expression on a thousand billboards, in commemorative TV serials, in festivals and on numerous other platforms. Occurring on October 31, 1975 - four months after Emergency had been declared -, the Patel centenary was, by contrast, wholly neglected by official India and by the rest of the Establishment, and since then the curtain drawn on the life of one of modern India's most remarkable sons has been only occasionally and partially lifted. To fling it wide and let today's generation see Vallabhbhai Patel's life is my privilege. It is not a perfect man's life and I have neither wanted nor tried to hide Patel's imperfections. But some at least may feel after knowing his life that Patel is a man to remember gratefully in good times and as a benchmark of India's potential when the times seem depressing or daunting.

Whether or not Gandhi was unjust to Patel when the moment arrived to select free India's first Premier is a question that frequently crops up. The answer disclosed by my inquiry will be found in these pages. But the opinion of some that the Mahatma had been less than fair to Vallabhbhai was a factor in my decision to attempt to write the latter's life. If a wrong had been perpetrated, some reparation from one of the Mahatma's grandsons would be in order. In addition I seek to discharge the obligation of a citizen to a founder of his nation.

I may be allowed also to refer to a personal contact, though of the slenderest kind and occurring when I was 14. Sometime in 1949, during a visit that my parents, siblings and I made to 1 Aurangzeb Road - the Sardar's home in New Delhi -, I somehow found myself alone with him on his lawn. We sat in chairs facing each other and about six feet apart. He was smiling at me with his lips and his eyes - mocking and inspecting me, I thought. I felt uncomfortable and wanted to take my eyes off him but did not - I guess my pride came in the way. Then I chanced to look more closely into his eyes and noticed affection in them. From that moment I knew that the Iron Man had a warm heart.

All the same, I have tried to be objective in this study. Grievance, reparation, obligation and affection can impart a bias but, conscious of these impulses. I have endeavoured to be honest about Vallabhbhai and fair to those with whom he came in conflict. If despite my effort bias and factual errors have crept in. I would be grateful to be shown where.

The skills and devoted toil in years gone by of Narhari Parikh. Mahadev Desai, Pyarelal, V. P. Menon and Manibehn Patel supplied much of the foundation for this work. Though younger than Patel by several years, Parikh and Desai practised law alongside him in Ahmedabad during this century's teens and became his close confidants after they and Patel had joined Gandhi. Only death - Desai's in 1942 and Patel's 1950 - could end the warmth among the three, but by then Desai had recorded several of the Sardar's sayings and doings in his diaries, in Vir Vallabhbhai and in The Story of Bardoli, and Parikh had written his SardarVallabhbhai Patel, an account of Patel's life until 1942. Pyarelal's narration of Gandhi's Last Phase provides much insight and information about Patel, to whom Pyarelal too was very close. Menon's The Transfer of Power in India and' The Story of the Integration of the Indian States offer a ringside view of Patel'srole in the epochal changes to which the titles refer, a role that Menon had witnessed and aided. A witness and aide from a much earlier time, Manibehn has bequeathed to historians a remarkable legacy in the form of a daily record, beginning in the mid-thirties, of her father's life. Into her diary she entered details of his health and diet and his appointments; as time passed, she also started noting down salient remarks, her father's or those of his interviewers - Manibehn was within earshot during. almost all her father's interviews. Her meticulousness and perseverance enable a student to fill many a significant' gap about which other accounts and papers are silent. Whatever else it may or may not have done, my effort towards understanding Patel's life has evoked in me respect, gratitude and warmth towards these painstaking and sensitive witnesses.

Next only to what I owe to these five is my debt to the (British) editors of the Transfer of Power volumes and the (Indian) editors of the Collected Works of Man,atma Gandhi. These man-made mines will continue to offer riches to any student of the freedom movement or of its protagonists. Patel's utterances and letters assembled in the numerous volumes edited by G. M. Nandurkar, and the ten-volume compilation of Patel's letters edited by Durgadas have also been greatly useful to me. Individual studies, diaries or accounts have helped illuminate some periods. David Hardiman's Peasant Nationalists of Gujarat, a splendid account of Kheda in the twenties and early thirties, is a work I have freely drawn on; likewise Wavell's Journal, edited by Penderel Moon, and Vidya Shankar's Reminiscences. Then I have benefited from the work of S. Gopal, editor of the multi-volume Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, and author of the three-volume Jawaharlal Nehru, and used information he found or unearthed. As the references and the bibliography will reveal, I am in debt to several other authors and researchers as well.

Insight and facts also emerged from interviews. Manibehn, whose death not long before the expected publication of this study was of especial sadness to me, Bipin and Gautam Patel - the Sardar's grandsons, sons of the late Dahyabhai -, Chimanbhai Patel, the Sardar's nephew, Morarji Desai, Achyut Patwardhan, Hitendra Desai, Babubhai Patel, who among other things helped me to picture Vallabhbhai's youth, H. M. Patel, Ramnath Goenka, Minoo Masani, Narendra Nathwani, Ramkrishna Bajaj, B. P. Patel, B. R. Patel, Uttamchand Shah, Jethabhai Patel, Viren Shah, C. Subramaniam, Mulshanker Bhatt, S. Ramakrishnan, relatives of the Sardar's wife Jhaverba and the late Khushalbhai Patel, Umashankar Joshi, S. M. Joshi, C. R. Narasimhan and Gangasharan Sinha were among those who reminisced for my benefit and to whom I owe thanks. Much of the study of old newspaper files, microfilms, private papers and published works was done at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. I am grateful for access to its material and for the several helpful tips of its deputy director, Dr. Haridev Sharma. For the opportunity to peruse files of the Government of India, I am grateful to the authorities of the National Archives.

Having asked me to write this biography, the Sardar Patel Memorial Society, Shahibag, Ahmedabad, also made its considerable material available to me. My thanks to Shri Babubhai Patel, the Society's chairman, and Shri Nathubhai Naik, its director. Of course neither the Society nor any of its office-bearers nor anyone other than myself is responsible for the opinions I have expressed. I am grateful, finally, for Navajivan, my publishers, and in particular for the care given by Shri Jitendra Desai, the managing trustee, and for the painstaking proof-reading by Shri Kanubhai Desai and Smt. Dakshabehn Madia.

 

Content

 

  Preface  
One Found (1875-1918) 1
Two Lieutenant (1918-22) 51
Three Sardar (1922-29) 107
Four Prisoner (1929-34) 175
Five Boss (1934-39) 243
Six Thwarted (1939-45) 287
Seven Victory (1945-47) 341
Eight Climax (1947-48) 423
Nine Soldier (1948-50) 487
  Glossary 537
  Sources and Bibliography 539
  References and Notes 547
  Index 603

Sample Pages
































Patel: A Life - The Best Biography of Sardar Patel

Item Code:
NAJ071
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2013
ISBN:
9788172291389
Language:
English
Size:
9.0 inch x 6.0 inch
Pages:
623 (10 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 970 gms
Price:
$35.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

The establishment of independent India derived legitimacy and power, broadly speaking, from the exertions of three men, Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. But while its acknowledgements are fulsome in the case of Nehru and dutiful in the case of Gandhi, they are niggardly in the case of Patel. "That there is today an India to think and talk about," President Rajendra Prasad wrote in his diary on May l3, 1959 "is very largely due to Sardar Patel's statesmanship and firm administration:' "Yet;' added Prasad, "we are apt to ignore him:'

... the curtain drawn on the life of one of modern India's most remarkable sons has been only occasionally and partially lifted. To fling it wide and let today's generation see Vallabhbhai Patel's life is my privilege. It is not a perfect man's life and I have neither wanted nor tried to hide Patel's imperfections. But some at least may feel after knowing his life that Patel is a man to remember gratefully in good times and as a benchmark of India's potential when the times seem depressing or daunting.

Whether or not Gandhi was unjust to Patel when the moment arrived to select free India's first Premier is a question that frequently crops up. The answer disclosed by my inquiry will be found in these pages. But the opinion of some that the Mahatma had been less than fair to Vallabhbhai was a factor in my decision to attempt to write the latter's life. If a wrong had been perpetrated, some reparation from one of the Mahatma's grandsons would be in order. In addition I seek to discharge the obligation of a citizen to a founder of his nation ....

 

Preface

The establishment of independent India derived legitimacy and power, broadly speaking, from the exertions of three men, Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. But while its acknowledgements are fulsome in the case of Nehru and dutiful in the case of Gandhi, they are niggardly in the case of Patel. "That there is today an India to think and talk about," President Rajendra Prasad wrote in his diary on May 13, 1959, "is very largely due to Sardar Patel's statesmanship and firm administration." "Yet," added Prasad, "we are apt to ignore him." Falling in 1989, the centenary of Jawaharlal's birth found expression on a thousand billboards, in commemorative TV serials, in festivals and on numerous other platforms. Occurring on October 31, 1975 - four months after Emergency had been declared -, the Patel centenary was, by contrast, wholly neglected by official India and by the rest of the Establishment, and since then the curtain drawn on the life of one of modern India's most remarkable sons has been only occasionally and partially lifted. To fling it wide and let today's generation see Vallabhbhai Patel's life is my privilege. It is not a perfect man's life and I have neither wanted nor tried to hide Patel's imperfections. But some at least may feel after knowing his life that Patel is a man to remember gratefully in good times and as a benchmark of India's potential when the times seem depressing or daunting.

Whether or not Gandhi was unjust to Patel when the moment arrived to select free India's first Premier is a question that frequently crops up. The answer disclosed by my inquiry will be found in these pages. But the opinion of some that the Mahatma had been less than fair to Vallabhbhai was a factor in my decision to attempt to write the latter's life. If a wrong had been perpetrated, some reparation from one of the Mahatma's grandsons would be in order. In addition I seek to discharge the obligation of a citizen to a founder of his nation.

I may be allowed also to refer to a personal contact, though of the slenderest kind and occurring when I was 14. Sometime in 1949, during a visit that my parents, siblings and I made to 1 Aurangzeb Road - the Sardar's home in New Delhi -, I somehow found myself alone with him on his lawn. We sat in chairs facing each other and about six feet apart. He was smiling at me with his lips and his eyes - mocking and inspecting me, I thought. I felt uncomfortable and wanted to take my eyes off him but did not - I guess my pride came in the way. Then I chanced to look more closely into his eyes and noticed affection in them. From that moment I knew that the Iron Man had a warm heart.

All the same, I have tried to be objective in this study. Grievance, reparation, obligation and affection can impart a bias but, conscious of these impulses. I have endeavoured to be honest about Vallabhbhai and fair to those with whom he came in conflict. If despite my effort bias and factual errors have crept in. I would be grateful to be shown where.

The skills and devoted toil in years gone by of Narhari Parikh. Mahadev Desai, Pyarelal, V. P. Menon and Manibehn Patel supplied much of the foundation for this work. Though younger than Patel by several years, Parikh and Desai practised law alongside him in Ahmedabad during this century's teens and became his close confidants after they and Patel had joined Gandhi. Only death - Desai's in 1942 and Patel's 1950 - could end the warmth among the three, but by then Desai had recorded several of the Sardar's sayings and doings in his diaries, in Vir Vallabhbhai and in The Story of Bardoli, and Parikh had written his SardarVallabhbhai Patel, an account of Patel's life until 1942. Pyarelal's narration of Gandhi's Last Phase provides much insight and information about Patel, to whom Pyarelal too was very close. Menon's The Transfer of Power in India and' The Story of the Integration of the Indian States offer a ringside view of Patel'srole in the epochal changes to which the titles refer, a role that Menon had witnessed and aided. A witness and aide from a much earlier time, Manibehn has bequeathed to historians a remarkable legacy in the form of a daily record, beginning in the mid-thirties, of her father's life. Into her diary she entered details of his health and diet and his appointments; as time passed, she also started noting down salient remarks, her father's or those of his interviewers - Manibehn was within earshot during. almost all her father's interviews. Her meticulousness and perseverance enable a student to fill many a significant' gap about which other accounts and papers are silent. Whatever else it may or may not have done, my effort towards understanding Patel's life has evoked in me respect, gratitude and warmth towards these painstaking and sensitive witnesses.

Next only to what I owe to these five is my debt to the (British) editors of the Transfer of Power volumes and the (Indian) editors of the Collected Works of Man,atma Gandhi. These man-made mines will continue to offer riches to any student of the freedom movement or of its protagonists. Patel's utterances and letters assembled in the numerous volumes edited by G. M. Nandurkar, and the ten-volume compilation of Patel's letters edited by Durgadas have also been greatly useful to me. Individual studies, diaries or accounts have helped illuminate some periods. David Hardiman's Peasant Nationalists of Gujarat, a splendid account of Kheda in the twenties and early thirties, is a work I have freely drawn on; likewise Wavell's Journal, edited by Penderel Moon, and Vidya Shankar's Reminiscences. Then I have benefited from the work of S. Gopal, editor of the multi-volume Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, and author of the three-volume Jawaharlal Nehru, and used information he found or unearthed. As the references and the bibliography will reveal, I am in debt to several other authors and researchers as well.

Insight and facts also emerged from interviews. Manibehn, whose death not long before the expected publication of this study was of especial sadness to me, Bipin and Gautam Patel - the Sardar's grandsons, sons of the late Dahyabhai -, Chimanbhai Patel, the Sardar's nephew, Morarji Desai, Achyut Patwardhan, Hitendra Desai, Babubhai Patel, who among other things helped me to picture Vallabhbhai's youth, H. M. Patel, Ramnath Goenka, Minoo Masani, Narendra Nathwani, Ramkrishna Bajaj, B. P. Patel, B. R. Patel, Uttamchand Shah, Jethabhai Patel, Viren Shah, C. Subramaniam, Mulshanker Bhatt, S. Ramakrishnan, relatives of the Sardar's wife Jhaverba and the late Khushalbhai Patel, Umashankar Joshi, S. M. Joshi, C. R. Narasimhan and Gangasharan Sinha were among those who reminisced for my benefit and to whom I owe thanks. Much of the study of old newspaper files, microfilms, private papers and published works was done at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. I am grateful for access to its material and for the several helpful tips of its deputy director, Dr. Haridev Sharma. For the opportunity to peruse files of the Government of India, I am grateful to the authorities of the National Archives.

Having asked me to write this biography, the Sardar Patel Memorial Society, Shahibag, Ahmedabad, also made its considerable material available to me. My thanks to Shri Babubhai Patel, the Society's chairman, and Shri Nathubhai Naik, its director. Of course neither the Society nor any of its office-bearers nor anyone other than myself is responsible for the opinions I have expressed. I am grateful, finally, for Navajivan, my publishers, and in particular for the care given by Shri Jitendra Desai, the managing trustee, and for the painstaking proof-reading by Shri Kanubhai Desai and Smt. Dakshabehn Madia.

 

Content

 

  Preface  
One Found (1875-1918) 1
Two Lieutenant (1918-22) 51
Three Sardar (1922-29) 107
Four Prisoner (1929-34) 175
Five Boss (1934-39) 243
Six Thwarted (1939-45) 287
Seven Victory (1945-47) 341
Eight Climax (1947-48) 423
Nine Soldier (1948-50) 487
  Glossary 537
  Sources and Bibliography 539
  References and Notes 547
  Index 603

Sample Pages
































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