Five myths about Nehru- Part 3 Myth 3: Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel were opponents and adversaries and Legacy of Nehru Gandhi Dynasty


Gandhi and Nehru

Gandhi and Nehru (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gandhi and Nehru and refugees from the partition

Gandhi and Nehru and refugees from the partition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Image of Mangal Pandey created by the uploa...

An Image of Mangal Pandey created by the uploader and User:Krantmlverma from the Portrate made by his Daughter Alpana Aditya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jawaharlal Nehru, circa 1927

Jawaharlal Nehru, circa 1927 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A portrait of Sardar Patel on his 74th birthda...

A portrait of Sardar Patel on his 74th birthday, 1949. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru (Photo credit: Phillie Casablanca)

This myth is promoted by advocates of a “strong” India, by those who believe that Nehru was soft on Pakistan, soft on China, and soft on the minorities. It is usually accompanied by a subsidiary myth, namely, that Patel would have made a “better” Prime Minister than Nehru.

In truth, Nehru and Patel worked superbly as a team — they were the duumvirate who, in the first, formative years of independence, effectively united and strengthened India. Of course, they differed by temperament and ideology. But these differences were subsumed and transcended by commitment to a common ideal: namely, a free, united, secular and democratic India. There were some things Nehru could do better than Patel — communing with the masses, relating to the world, assuring vulnerable groups (such as Muslims, tribals and Dalits) that they enjoyed equal rights with other Indians. There were some things Patel could do better than Nehru — dealing with the princes, nurturing the Congress party, carrying along dissidents in the Constituent Assembly. Each knew the other’s gifts, each took care not to trespass on the other person’s turf. That is how, together, they built India anew out of the ruins of Partition.

The myth of their rivalry is best answered in their own words. After Gandhi died, Nehru wrote to Patel of how “the old controversies ceases to have much significance and it seems to me that the urgent need of the hour is for all of us to function as closely and co-operatively as possible”. In all the years they had worked together, said Nehru, “my affection and regard for you has grown, and I do not think anything can happen to lessen this. … Anyway, in this crisis that we have to face now after Bapu‘s death I think it is my duty and, if I may venture to say, yours also for us to face it together as friends and colleagues”.

Patel, in reply, spoke of how he was “deeply touched, indeed overwhelmed, by the affection and warmth of your letter… “. He went on: “We have both been lifelong comrades in a common cause. The paramount interest of our country and our mutual love and regard, transcending such differences of outlook and temperament as existed, have held us together”. And Gandhi’s death had only awakened “a fresh realisation of how much we have achieved together and the need for further joint efforts in our grief-stricken country’s interests”.

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