Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950), popularly called as Sardar Patel, was the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. He was an Indian barrister and statesman, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and a founding father of the Republic of India who played a leading role in the country’s struggle for independence and guided its integration into a united, independent nation. In India and elsewhere, he was generally called Sardar, Chief in Hindi, Urdu, and Persian. He acted as de facto Supreme Commander-in-chief of Indian army during the political integration of India and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.
Early life and family
Patel’s date of birth was never officially maintained; Patel entered it as 31 October on his matriculation examination papers. He comes from the Leuva Patel Patidar community of Central Gujarat. He did his matriculation at the age of 22. He looked like to be an ordinary person to everyone around him but had strong willpower. He wanted to become a barrister. At the age of 36, he went to England to fulfill his dream and joined the Middle Temple Inn. He finished his 36-month course in just 30 months after returning to India he became one of the most successful barristers of Ahmedabad.
Inspired by the work and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, he joined India’s struggle for independence. He managed peasants of Kheda, Bardoli and other parts of Gujarat and launched the non-violent Civil Disobedience Movement in Gujarat, against the payment of raised tax, levied by the British government. He succeeded in his ambition and the British Government suspended the payment of revenue for that year. With this, he became one of the most inspiring leaders in Gujarat. In 1920 he comes as the president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee and served in the post till 1945.
He was a strong supporter of the Non -Cooperation Movement of Gandhi and grouped against alcoholism, Untouchability and caste discrimination in Gujarat. He was chosen as the municipal president of Ahmedabad in 1922, 1924 and 1927. When Mahatma Gandhi was in jail, he led the Satyagraha in Nagpur in 1923 against the British law, banning the raising of the Indian flag. He was chosen as the President of India National Congress in 1931. He was at the forefront of the Congress’ all India election campaign in 1934 and 1937 and was a major leader in organizing the Quit India Movement in 1942. He was prisoned prior to the Quit India Movement and was released in 1945.
After India’s independence, he was made the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India. He managed relief camps for refugees in Punjab and Delhi. He was the man behind the consolidation of 565 semi-autonomous princely states to form a united India. Patel was very close to Mahatma Gandhi. After Mahatma Gandhi’s death his condition also started deteriorating, he suffered a major heart attack within two months of Gandhi’s death. He died on 15 December 1950. Sardar was a man of courage and determination and in the true sense the ‘Iron Man of India’.
Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day) was launched by the Government of India and inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. The intent is to pay tribute to Sardar, who was instrumental in keeping India united. It is to be celebrated on 31 October every year as an annual commemoration of the birthday of the Iron Man of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the founding leaders of the Republic of India. The official statement for Rashtriya Ekta Diwas by the Home Ministry of India says that the National Unity Day “will provide an opportunity to reaffirm the inherent strength and resilience of our nation to withstand the actual and potential threats to the unity, integrity, and security of our country.”
National Unity Day celebrates the birthday of Patel because, during his time as Home Minister of India, he is credited for the integration of over 550 independent princely states into India from 1947-49 by Independence Act (1947). He is known as the “Bismarck of India”. The celebration is complemented with the speech of Prime Minister of India followed by the “Run for Unity”. The theme for 2016 celebrations was “Integration of India”.