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Loh Purush and Chhote Sardar: Two reasons why BJP can’t take Jaswant’s criticism of Patel

More than praising Jinnah,it’s Jaswant Singh’s criticism of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that’s touched many a raw —and politically strained — BJP nerve....

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi |
August 20, 2009 3:41:10 am

More than praising Jinnah,it’s Jaswant Singh’s criticism of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that’s touched many a raw —and politically strained — BJP nerve.

For,while the Congress has always tried to appropriate the legacy of the national movement,it’s through the strand in the Congress represented by India’s first Home Minister,Sardar Patel,that the BJP has tried to connect itself to the freedom movement.

Sardar Patel was referred to as the Iron Man — for uniting the princely states. This was the imagery L K Advani tried to invoke with portrayals of him being a Loh Purush as India’s Home Minister during the NDA rule.

Subsequently,in Patel’s home state, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has always cultivated the image of Chhote Sardar.

Jaswant Singh’s 669-page book (Jinnah — India,Partition,Independence) refers to Patel at about six places,the theme being that Jinnah’s interpretation (false,in Jaswant Singh’s opinion) of India being two nations,was finally acceded to by both Nehru and Patel.

The key excerpts from Jaswant Singh’s references to Patel:

1. Page 417: Leaders like Patel accepted partition “in order to seek relief from the torments of the past many years and in the process offering many ingratuitous suggestions.” Singh quotes from a letter written by Sardar Patel to Kanti Dwarkadas on March 4,1947: “I am not,however,taking such a gloomy view as you… before next June,the Constitution must be ready,and if the League insists on Pakistan the only alternative is the division of Punjab and Bengal.”

Patel,in the letter,goes on to say that in his view,the British would not agree to such a division and would not help the minority secure a division and a strong centre (subsuming minority demands) would ultimately prevail.

This letter,Jaswant Singh writes,“is a revealing letter for quite apart from how far off from the mark Patel was in respect of so many of his projections about the future,he was also for the first time,even if by implication,accepting partition on condition of a division of the Punjab and Bengal.”

2. Page 418: Jaswant Singh goes on to suggest that the formal adoption,accepting the partition of the country by the Congress party on March 8,1947,was done in the absence of Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Azad who,“Nehru and Patel had known would oppose the resolution.” Singh quotes Patel explaining the resolution to Gandhi later as “that you had expressed your views against it,we learnt only from the papers.”

There is a strong suggestion here that Nehru and Patel acted as one in changing the long-held position of the Congress,one of opposing partition to agreeing to it overnight. Jaswant Singh concludes that within a month of Mountbatten’s arrival,the Congress’s view on partition had changed.

3. Page 489: “it is in this,a false ‘minority syndrome’ that the dry rot of partition first set in,and then unstoppably it afflicted the entire structure,the magnificent strand of an united India. The answer (cure?) Jinnah asserted,lay only in parting,and Nehru and Patel and others in the Congress also finally agreed. Thus was born Pakistan…”

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