Iron Man of India’s freedom struggle, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, lent his steely strength to India’s consolidation after Independence, in full measure. A new nation was born. The challenge of protecting its unity was evident. With amazing skill, the Sardar accomplished the task, and became Architect of the Unified India.
On 31st October, therefore, the nation celebrates his birth anniversary as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, rejoicing over his precious legacy.
Sardar was a father figure, the father of India’s political integration. He oversaw the merger of several small States into the Indian Union. Several States under his guidance and forceful persuasion combined to form bigger entities, and then merged into the Indian Union. Regionalism gave way to nationalism, as he asked people to think big, and be strong. Every part of India celebrates today what the Sardar worked for during the early days after Independence.
Born to a small land-owner of Karamsad village near Anand on 31st October, 1875, the Sardar was named Vallabhbhai Zaverbhai Patel. By his sheer hard work as a young pleader, he saved money to proceed to England for higher legal education. In due course, he grew up to be a fearless barrister known for his tough looks and ruthless pursuit of public causes.
Conducting the Bardoli farmers’ movement on revenue rates as its Supreme Commander in 1928, he asked the peasants to be prepared for long suffering. Finally, the Sardar's leadership succeeded in forcing the Government to negotiate and withdraw the revision in the rates. At a village meeting, a peasant addressed him and said "You are our Sardar." Bardoli had brought Vallabhbhai to the national scene.
As a fitting tribute to the builder of Indian unity, 182 metres (597 feet) high Statue of Unity is under construction facing the Narmada Dam, 3.2 km away on the river island called Sadhu Bet near Vadodara in Gujarat. Designed by well-known sculptor Ram V. Sutar, the statue is planned to be spread over 20,000 square meters of project area and will be surrounded by an artificial lake spread across 12 km of area. The construction of the statue started on 31st October, 2014, after a formal launch of the project a year earlier. It would be the world's tallest statue when completed.
(Author is journalist. Views expressed in the article are his personal.)