It is amazing how history concocts and intertwines dates of epic proportions. 31 October has entries for two such persons. One a reputed Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of independent India Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the other being the third Prime Minister of India, Ms. Indira Gandhi. Today’s date marks the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel and death anniversary of Indira Gandhi. A lot of all that is good in India as we see it today can be attributed to Sardar Patel and the other can be attributed to Indira Gandhi. There couldn’t be two such diverse personalities who have such impact on India in particular and Indian sub-continent as a whole.
The Iron Man
Sardar Patel, Iron man of India, cometh the hour cometh the man. The self made man, been there done that, the master mind visionary and statesman, Indians equivalent of Benjamin Franklin and Bismarck. He provided the shoulders of a giant on which many a dwarves stood. He accepted Gandhian philosophy but not always accepted the Gandhi topi. His role in Indian freedom struggle is exemplarary. His vision of India, especially after winning the freedom balanced Nehru’s idealistic beliefs. If his words were paid heed to, Kashmir would never be in a state of fix. Pakistan gained upper hand of simply because of naive Nehru. The auspicious date of 15 August saw multiple challenges, horrific one at those, there were riots is many place of the country, Punjab remained tense for sometime, the merger of states, the largest of its kind in the world, the Pakistan attack on Kashmir with Pak regular army soldier in guise of tribals etc. These massive violence and horrific events raged across the sub-continent from Lahore to Dhaka. The British contributed handsomely to these problems.
Sardar Patel, the man with virtues and integrity of steel, resolved and guided the young nation through tough times, as though a grandfather guiding a pram. The merger and amalgamation of Indian states and princely domains itself is a case study for disciples of management, statecraft, diplomacy. I think there were more than 500 states dominions, princely states that were merged into what we now call as Union of Republic India. Operation Polo, in which, the then State of Hyderabad was merged into India, a unique Police action of its kind in the world.
It had to be a resolve of steel and Iron man of India often got it right too. His differences with Pandit Nehru were increasingly more apparent. India could have done more if Sardar Patel could see a few more years. It feels sad to dearth of such leadership and values in today’s time. I hope the next Indian prime minister has intellect of Patel, the dare devil Bose and the vision of Gandhi.
The Iron lady
Indira Gandhi was killed on this day. The Iron man was Sardar the Iron lady has to be Indira Gandhi. She divided Congress and formed Congress-I. That wasn’t her claim to fame. Indira tenure as Prime Minister has many things to be proud off – Atom Bomb, Bangladesh War, and Green revolution. Then there are not so good things, Emergency, Blue star, Nationalization of companies, poor, short sighted almost stymied economic and domestic policies. These are to be discussed with few that too in hush tones. She induced the culture of sycophancy in the Judiciary, government establishment, and Congress I. The effects are pretty visible till today.
She didn’t lead the government, she ruled with Iron fists. I think lot of what good that she did in her life was short lived. The bad, she left behind has a more ever lasting effect. Shimla Agreement fiasco, Emergency, split in the congress, almost an exalted sycophancy that was breed and meritocracy was sacrificed ensuring bad prevails in Cong, for eternity. There was reports of mal practice in her election, there was the court case, the Honourable High Court of Allahabad declared her election null and void. India saw her first and hopefully last emergency. The corruption that we see today, especially at higher level of so-called government can traces it's root back to Indira Gandhi.
India politics will take a long while to give up bad effects of Indira reign as Prime Minister of India. There was a few things which I like though, the Bangladesh War, where she outwitted Americans and Pakistani establishment. It was the best of the best from Indira Gandhi, the peak of her achievements. If only she would have thought of more prudent economic policies.
It is safe to say though that Indira Gandhi held her own among her contemporaries. I say this for reasons good and bad that there may not be another Indira Gandhi.