Remembering Sardar Patel
Contd from previous issue
In September 1950, the two contestants for party presidentship were JB Kripalani and PD Tandon – who had the blessing and support of Nehru and Patel respectively. Indeed, the contest was seen as a trial of strength between PM and Deputy PM all over the country.
Several newspapers, National as well as foreign , described and commented upon it in that light. Tandon (1306 votes) won by defeating Kripalani (1092 votes). With the party under the overall control of his protégé, Patel would have made it increasingly difficult for Nehru to function as leader of the Parliamentary wing and ultimately as the PM. But luckily for Nehru, that was not to be, for Patel passed away suddenly on 15th December, 1950 in Mumbai.
After Patel's death, Nehru's political and functional constraints disappeared. The Patelites in the Cabinet were left leaderless. Although Patel was dead, his protégé, Tandon was still the Congress president and as such in overall control of the party organisation. So Nehru’s first effort was directed towards capturing the Congress Organisation with a majority working committee of his choice. But being unable to do so, he resigned from the working committee.
This was followed by a few more resignations. Finding himself isolated, Tandon resigned and Nehru was crowned as the Congress president (along with the Prime Ministership) in October 1951.
After the 1952 general elections, Nehru came in full form and dropped all the Patelites-Gadgil, Munshi, Diwakar, and Bhabha- from the council of Ministers. He had planned to axe Baldev Singh &Jagjivan Ram too, as they were suspected to be well wishers of Patel. However, Jagjivan Ram was retained at the instance of President Dr Rajendra Prasad. The 14-member new council of Ministers was full of Nehru’s handpicked men - Kailash Nath Katju, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Gopal Swami Aiyangar, CD Deshmukh, TT Krishnamachari, VV Giri, CC Biswas, Amrit Kaur, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai. The other two Ministers Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Jagjivan Ram were no more challengeable threat to Nehru. Thus in 1952, the party as well as Government were freed from Patel and his shadow (loyalists). Actually it was the beginning of “Nehru Era” and end of “Patel Era” of power politics in India.
Rajaji, the first Indian Governor General and later Home Minister in the Nehru Cabinet (till 1952), regarded that, “Gandhi had made a blunder in wanting that Nehru and not Patel should be the PM.
Had Nehru been the Foreign Minister and Patel the Prime Minister, India would have avoided …………… many of errors she was led into under Jawahar and (from) the glamour ……………(of) egalitarianism, associated with communism, which captivated his innocent heart.”
Thus the crucial presidential election of the Congress in 1946 was the turning point in the history of India. If Patel, the people’s choice, had been the head of the Indian Government, the National, international, economic, agricultural, education, industrial, defence, border security issues, Tibet issue and other policies all would have been different and the great India might have emerged as a “ Super Power “ in the world.