In his speech on the occasion of taking over as Congress President, Mallikarjun Kharge mentioned Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and reminded his audience that he was leading a party once headed by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel.
Kharge also said he will address his first public meeting in Gujarat, where the BJP has assimilated Sardar Patel as its own and built a grand statue in his honour.
The Congress has said the BJP wants to use Sardar Patel to demean Jawaharlal Nehru. What it was not telling people is that it was Sardar Patel who had banned the RSS. In a letter to Shyama Prasad Mookerji, Patel had stated: “There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy [the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi]. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and the State.”
The banned was revoked on the condition that the RSS would not engage in any political activity, but then, Mookerji formed the Jana Sangh with the help of the RSS.
On September 5, addressing a rally in Gujarat, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also spoke on Sardar Patel.
Taking on the BJP, he raised a pointed question that if the BJP seriously believed in Sardar Patel’s ideology, it would never have introduced and passed anti-farmer laws.
Addressing party workers at a ‘Parivartan Sankalp Sabha’, Rahul said: “Throughout his life Sardar Patel fought for farmers, labourers, common people, but the BJP government is acting exactly opposite to his ideology. How can they be called Sardar Patel’s followers? They have built the tallest statue of the Sardar, but have failed to understand his belief, philosophy and ideology.”
He continued: “Have you ever heard that Sardar Patel had taken permission from the British for protest or agitation? The BJP claims it believes in Sardar, but in its regime people have to take permission for agitations and protests, which the Sardar would never have tolerated. Had he been alive, he would have asked you to dethrone the BJP for imposing such restrictions.”
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked the issue of J&K and blamed Nehru for not being able to resolve it, the Congress was quick to respond.
Even though PM Modi did not refer to Nehru by name, the Congress said that he should have checked the facts first. The party blamed Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of J&K, for not acceding to India soon after Independence. He took the decision only after invaders from Pakistan tried to take over the state.
Jairam Ramesh, Congress general secretary in-charge of the communication department, cited Rajmohan Gandhi’s book to point out: “The PM has once again whitewashed REAL history. He overlooks the following facts only to castigate Nehru on J&K. All this has been documented in Rajmohan Gandhi’s biography of Sardar Patel. These facts are known to the PM’s new man in J&K.”
He added: “Maharaja Hari Singh dithered on accession. He harboured dreams of independence. But when Pakistan invaded, Hari Singh acceded to India. Sardar Patel was okay with J&K joining Pakistan till September 13, 1947, when the Nawab of Junagadh acceded to Pakistan.”
It was Sheikh Abdullah, Jairam pointed out, setting the record straight, who “championed the state’s accession to India entirely because of his friendship with and admiration for Nehru, and his respect for Gandhi.”
Jairam continued: “Vallabhbhai’s lukewarm stand on Kashmir lasted until September 13, 1947. That morning, in a letter to Baldev Singh, the then Defence Minister, he had indicated that ‘if (Kashmir) decides to join the other Dominion’, he would accept the fact. His attitude changed later that day when he heard that Pakistan had accepted Junagadh’s accession.” Jairam was quoting from Rajmohan Gandhi’s book.
The BJP, however, has stuck to its guns. On a recent visit to J&K, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declared that the dream of Sardar Patel will be fulfilled only when all the refugees of 1947 will get their land and homes back.
A Parliament resolution passed on February 22, 1994, had demanded that Pakistan must vacate the part of Kashmir under its illegal occupation, the Defence Minister had reminded his audience.
He said the revocation of Article 370 marked a new beginning in J&K. “The people of J&K have supported the full integration of J&K with the Union of India. J&K and Ladakh UTs are flourishing with every section of the society getting its due rights,” he maintained.
He said in 1947 that the Indian Army had given a befitting reply to the enemy who tried to play mischief by occupying Kashmir illegally.
Not only J&K, PM Modi has also invoked the issue of Goa in his speeches, saying Goa would not have to wait for 14 more years to be liberated from the Portuguese after India’s Independence, if Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had lived longer.