Discuss the role of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in pre and post independent India? Was India in a position to fulfil his absence specially during the integration phase of princely states after Independence ?

Published: December 21, 2016

India has come a long way since its independence 69 years ago. Back then, a hard-fought independence came with besetting problems—partition, communal riots and a refugee crisis. By 15 August 1947, the process of integration of princely states was almost complete but the holdouts—Hyderabad, Kashmir and Junagadh—were the toughest nuts to crack. Add to that the resource constraints, fledgling institutions if at all, and a colonial machinery ill-equipped to deal with changed realities, and the Jawaharlal Nehru government had too much on its hands.
Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first deputy prime minister and the minister of home affairs, would not just handle these problems with dexterity but would go on to truly become—in the words of Shashi Tharoor—“the man who saved India”. By integrating more than 560 princely states, Patel and his secretary of the ministry of states V.P. Menon imparted geographic coherence to India and prevented its Balkanization, a fate which many predicted would befall the newborn state sooner than later. 
Having made his mark in the satyagrahas of Kheda (1918) and Bardoli (1928), Patel was a strong contender for the role of president of the Indian National Congress in 1929. However, M.K. Gandhi chose Nehru. A loyal soldier of Gandhi, Patel fell in line. History would repeat itself, quite famously, in May 1946 when it was clear that the next Congress president would end up as independent India’s first prime minister. The provincial committees of the Congress favoured Patel, but Gandhi pressed for Nehru. A loyal Patel fell in line, once again.
Personal disappointments did not come in the way of higher duty. Patel would use all the tricks in the bag—including the use of force, as Hyderabad and Junagadh show—to integrate the princely states with the Indian dominion. An administrator by instinct, Patel sought to protect the privileges of the Indian Civil Service officers who were deemed to be compromised on account of their previous services to the Raj.
Patel argued against nationalization of industries and was for letting “those who have the knowledge and experience manage the industries and increase the country’s wealth”. He was a major driving force behind the liberal industrial policy resolution of 1948.
Patel was among the few to see the dangers from China’s imminent takeover of Tibet. One of the foremost chroniclers of Sino-India relations, John W. Garver records: “Patel advocated a series of practical measures designed to strengthen India’s position: accelerated road building in the frontier areas, strengthening of India’s military capabilities, moves to better integrate the northeastern territories into India.” Garver goes on to say: “Had India adopted Patel’s recommendations in early 1951, history might have been very different.” On Kashmir, the realist Patel had advised Nehru against going to the UN.
With this it can be safely concluded that, Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s contribution to the Integration of India, his vision of a newly born state was unmatched and none of the contemporaries could have lived up to the requirements of the time better than him.

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