Patel, great in his own way, was not a leader of the masses. His work was essentially behind the curtains. He was not accepted by Bengal because of the hostility between him and Subhas Chandra Bose and his family (there was a patch up only a few weeks before Independence when he and Netaji’s elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose embraced each other in public view). He was hardly known in south India, while in the west, he was caught in a race between Gujaratis and Marathis.
Patel’s greatness became apparent only after Independence as Nehru’s deputy because of his monumental work in erasing over 500 princely states from the map of India and unifying the country as never before in its long history. By this act, he brought one-third of India out of the medieval into the modern age.
The aforesaid are some of the factors due to which Nehru and not Patel was made to lead India after the advent of freedom. These apart, Patel was 72 years old at the time of Independence and had a major heart ailment soon after.
As regards Mountbatten, he came into picture only in March 1947. At the time, Nehru was already a tall leader and the senior most member of India’s interim government and didn’t have to manipulate Mountbatten to advance his position.
RC Mody, New Delhi
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