Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Playing Sardar Patel For Votes

There are many thin lines in this world, lines that run between love and lust, care and obsession, selflessness and acquisitiveness. It is difficult for both the first and the third person to fathom if one or more of these lines has been crossed. There are times when an error in judgement can change the fate of people, communities and even countries. A perfect example of this can be seen in democratic electioneering. Is a candidate going to live up to his promises or is he driven by purely vested interests is left to the public at large to judge.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a national icon. His stature is next only to that of towering figures of Indian independence like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. His contributions to the nation are widely written about and make an indispensable part of the NCERT’s history textbooks. In fact whenever there is a discussion about the greatest sons of the soil, Sardar Patel’s mention is never far away.

In Dehradun there is a towering statue of the ‘Iron Man of India’ not far from an unnoticeable bust of none less than Pandit Nehru himself. It is evident that the stature of Sardar Patel is second to none as is the acknowledgment of his contributions in laying the foundations of our great nation. There have been recent comments by some commentators with vested interests about the lack of importance that has been accorded to the legacy of Sardar Patel by us as a country. If that were indeed the case would the legacy of Patel and his presence in the Indian ethos have been so strong in the modern day.

The Legislative Assembly buildings of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are named after Patel. The National Police Academy where officers of the elite Indian Police Service (IPS) are trained is named after the great man. Apart from this numerous technical universities (including the National Institute of Technology (NIT) at Surat), medical colleges, memorials, airstrips and dams are named after Sardar Patel. It is therefore a matter of great concern if the Prime Minister himself has said that there has been a deliberate effort to omit Patel’s heroics from India’s history. Even more disturbing is the fact that he made this statement after having recently inaugurated the ‘Sardar Sarovar’ Dam whose foundation had been laid back in the day by Pandit Nehru. Is he being wrongly informed by his political advisors and speech writers?

For me a very important line is being crossed here. A line between true and false, a line which when crossed leads to divide. This has perhaps already been understood by those who identify with Patel as the man who banned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh soon after the assassination of Gandhi. For those who might fall prey to this school of thought, it is perhaps time to dig out a few textbooks eating dust in the library. India must not be taken in by such moves to gain nothing except political mileage. That is the last thing Patel himself would have hoped for. Let us celebrate our ‘Ekta’ like we do every 31st of October, the birth Anniversary of the great Sardar.

“By common endeavour, we can raise the country to new greatness, while lack of unity will expose us to unexpected calamities.”
-Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Maanas Lal is a renowned young artist and a columnist based in India. He can be reached at aloke-maanaslalart.com

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