Ever since BJP under Narendra Modi adopted Sardar Patel as its icon completely destroying Congress’s claim to the legacy of Patel, more often than not it is put on the mat by the BJP in its aggressive defence of Sardar Patel. BJP has very tactfully taken over both Patel and Gandhi with some smart politics and media management. Narendra Modi has aligned himself with Gandhian ideals and appropriating very cleverly his ideas of Swach Bharat.
His next step was to encroach upon the legacy of Sardar Patel as the Iron Man of India, man who achieved the impossible of integrating the 562 odd Princely States of British Raj into a cohesive entity called India. Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister of Gujarat had invoked Patel through his espousal of the Sardar Sarovar Project on Narmada. He constantly invoked Patel and the insults which he thought were heaped on Patel by the Congress over the years, the Congress’ denial of Bharat Ratna, belittling the contribution of Patel were all highlighted by Modi in his years as both the Chief Minister of Gujarat and Prime Minister Of India.
Finally, Congress’ abdication of Patel and BJP’s adoption of Sardar is complete in today’s environment. Patel stands tall as the tallest in his statue at Sardar Sarovar is testimony of Modi’s faith in Patel as Unifier and he makes it a point to rub it in every time there is an occasion to do so. In light of the discussion on Reorganisation of State Jammu and Kashmir Bill, 2019, brought forth the ambiguity of Congress and its inability to form a coherent counter to repeated assertions of BJP that Nehru was behind the promulgation of Articles 370 and 35A.
And, the erudite but not so honest in his articulations, Kapil Sibal made the Cardinal Sin of putting the blame of Kashmir on Patel by alluding that Sardar Patel was willing to give away Kashmir in lieu of Junagadh, the insinuation that Patel wanted Junagadh in his home State of Bombay as part of India and was willing if Muslim majority Kashmir wanted to merge with Pakistan. This is a narrative formed by Congress to absolve Nehru and his acolyte Sheikh Abdullah and their dealings with the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh.
It is a known fact that Hari Singh was opposed to Abdullah as an arbitrator of any sorts in Kashmir. The politics of pre Independence Kashmir was the flash point between the two. Sheikh and his Muslim Conference was fighting against the rule of Dogra King on the premise that how can a minority Hindu King rule over a Muslim majority region. Muslim Conference was an Islamist body of politic which wanted the rights of Muslims of Kashmir. However, Nehru persuaded Sheikh to change the name of Muslim Conference to National Conference to appear Secular if not become secular. The subterfuge worked and Sheikh then on became Nehru’s man in Kashmir. The personal antipathy between Maharaja Hari Singh on one side and Nehru-Abdullah combine on the other was the sole point of contention which was acting as a hindrance in making up of mind by Hari Singh.
Sardar Patel was excluded from negotiating on Kashmir by Nehru who appointed N Gopalaswami Aiyenger as Minister of Kashmir. The argument forwarded by Nehru was that Kashmir was a Foreign State and as the arbiter Of Foreign Affairs, Nehru had the Right To Deal with Kashmir and not Sardar Patel, who was looking after Home. This led the already frayed relationship to rupture. Accession of Junagadh was indeed an important issue but on 15 August 1947, Nawab of Junagadh had declared his allegiance to Pakistan which was against the spirit of the basis of division of States, the majority wanted to be part of the Indian Union while the Nawab’s declaration was violation of the spirit.
The last straw came with Pakistan accepting the Accession of Junagadh on 13 September 1947, the same day, Patel had accepted the fact that Kashmir has to be part of India by any means. The argument of Kapil Sibal is pregnant with insinuations when he states in the Parliament that Patel was ready to give away Kashmir for Junagadh not clarifying the issues behind the initial position of Patel as being in consonance with the larger model for the Partition of British India which was based on contiguous areas of certain majority religion.
Besides, not many would have known that Nizam was in correspondence with Pakistan over the issue of Independent status of Hyderabad. The position was exactly the same as in Kashmir where the majority was Muslim but the ruler was Hindu, in Hyderabad, the majority Hindus wanted to be part of India while Nizam wanted to be an independent country in middle of the Indian Nation. However, the day Junagadh was accepted by Jinnah, Sardar Patel had completely changed his views on the both Kashmir and Hyderabad, it was his firm belief that both Kashmir and Hyderabad will be part of India ( Ref; Patel, A Life, Rajmohan Gandhi).
The half truths by Congress is an attempt to buck the blame on the insidious provision of Art 370 in the Constitution. It is also often said by various present Congressmen that it was Patel who got the Art 370 passed in the Parliament.
The fact was that Nehru while embarking on his foreign sojourn had passed a written note to Patel devolving the responsibility of getting the Art 370 passed in the Parliament in his absence. His biographers have clearly stated that Sardar, all his life had followed what Gandhi had ordained for him. This devolving Of responsibility was a well thought out strategy to get the Article passed as Nehru himself would not have been able get the requisite support in the Parliament. Morality still played a big part in politics of those days and Patel wasn’t the one to ditch anyone, his inability to get out of this predicament led to the passing of Art 370, much to his dislike but it was his duty on the day to see the legislation through with which his leader had entrusted him with.
There can be many interpretations but knowing Sardar and his forthrightness, it was impossible for him to betray the Trust reposed in him by Nehru, even on a sly. Both Rajmohan Gandhi and VP Menon have hinted at the same manoeuvre by Nehru to get this concession through by using Patel ( Ref;Patel, A Life, Rajmohan Gandhi & Integration Of States, VP Menon)
Patel’s critics have said that he could have refused to be the scapegoat in the case, to remind them, Patel, did not even protest when Gandhi got the Congress Working Committee to nominate Jawaharlal Nehru through the backdoor. Even though not a single State Congress Committees had forwarded the name of Nehru. Sardar did not protest against the biggest injustice done to him, this was nothing. It was at best a Half Truth by Kapil Sibal when he insinuated that Patel wanted to give away Kashmir and at worst a deliberate attempt to tarnish the image of the Iron Man Of India without whom we would still be fighting among ourselves.