Sardar Patel, also called the “Iron Man of India,” was a leading figure in India’s struggle for independence and the person who gathered forcefully the various states which were to compose the Union of India. Born in Nadiad (Gujarat), raised in the countryside, and largely self-educated, he became a practicing lawyer. Elected to the Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad in 1917, he began by questioning British rule and subsequently joined Gandhi in his various movements for independence, becoming one of his most loyal followers. In 1931, he became the president of the Congress and in 1946, Home Minister. It was the time when the movement in favor of Pakistan was reaching alarming proportions. Sardar Patel was one of those who could not accept the idea that India should be a loose Federation of autonomous states. With many centrifugal forces which tore India apart, the only possible answer was to build a strong state with a strong centre. Let Muslims have their majority provinces and their people get away with their dreams. Patel was thus the first one to accept the Mountbatten plan and he managed to convince Nehru. With Gandhi, it was difficult and sad. As for Maulana Azad, it was a total break between the two leaders. At the same time, Patel had accomplished a Herculean task together with the help of V. P. Menon who managed to convince the rulers of more than 560 princely states to join India voluntarily. Three did not: Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad. Patel never recovered from the shock of the Mahatma assassination in January 1948. He died three years later. Up to this day, he is remembered as a symbol of patriotism with a Hindu tint, but without the fanaticism of the Hindu Parivar.
GANDHI, Rajmohan. 1991. Patel: A Life. Ahmedabad: Navajivan.
PATEL, Vallabhbhai. 1989. For a United India: Speeches of Sardar Patel, 1947–1950. Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.