National Unity Day or Rashtriya Ekta Diwas is celebrated on October 31 every year since 2014 to mark the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India. Popularly known as the “Iron Man of India”, Sardar played a crucial role in the unification of India after India gained independence.
In the months preceding the Independence of India and following it, Patel worked tirelessly to bring 565 princely states into the fold of the Union of India. He used various tactics including diplomacy, personal relation as well as police action for the unification of India. For his incredible efforts, the government of India introduced the National Unity Day in 2014.
The Home Ministry in an official statement said that the day “will provide an opportunity to re-affirm the inherent strength and resilience of our nation to withstand the actual and potential threats to the unity, integrity and security of our country.”
Sardar Patel was a dynamic leader who had only national interest in his heart. He was the kind of leader who worked harder than his followers. He had strong ideals that he always adhered to. Following are some of the lessons we all need to learn from his life:
Interest of Nation Over Self
Sardar Patel was a leader who kept the interest of the nation before anything else. Before the formation of the constituent assembly in 1946, the Indian National Congress was going in election internally to choose their president. It was preconceived that whoever becomes the president of the congress in that year, will be the head of the interim government and will also be the first Prime Minister of India.
The president was to be elected by the Congress Pradesh Committee members only. Of 16 committees, 13 elected for Patel as the president. However, Nehru’s insistence to stay at the top of the government and Gandhi’s support to the same caused him to take a decision to step back from his claim for the government head, even though he deserved it as per the procedure. This shows his commitment to do right by the country even at the cost of his self-interest.
Large-heartedness in Governance
Patel, who was equipped with the army and police did not so it fit to forcefully acquire the princely states for as long as he could help. He convinced the rulers of the princely states to join the Indian union by using diplomatic methods.
During the unification of princely states, the main concern of the rulers was that of loss of their revenue and loss of their role in governance. Patel addressed these concerns by providing the rulers with privy-purse to assure them that they would be looked after in the Union of India. In addition to that, he appointed many of these rulers as governors, even the ones that opposed the joining of the union. This large-heartedness shown by Patel towards the rulers was a major reason why India was unified without any bloodshed.
Hard work and Grit
Sardar Patel came from a farmer family. He was not from a privileged background like Nehru or even Gandhi. He worked hard to study law and practised as a lawyer locally. He wished to go to England to study further. He applied to a law program in England and was accepted to study there. However, the documents mentioned only his initials instead of his full name. His brother, Vitthalbhai who went with same initials claimed the documents and went to England to study further in Sardar’s place.
Sardar bore expenses of his brother as well as his family during this time, even though he himself was not that well established. He worked hard to support his family and eventually after years, was able to himself go to England to complete his education.
Patel believed that a nation cannot prosper if its women are miserable. He said, “Women in one way are extremely courageous. Men do not endure the miseries to the extent women do. So long as women are not sufficiently educated and inculcated with national spirit, till then there will be no prosperity.”
Life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a yardstick to measure all the qualities of hardwork, determination, and leadership in oneself. Not only was he a strong leader, but was also loved among his subjects and followers. On 145th Birth Anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, let us all take a moment to remember him and strive to follow his footsteps in the love of our country.