Had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel become PM in 1947, he would have certainly left the country in great chaos at the time of his death—just three years later. Kashmir would have erupted by 1950, instead of smouldering till it caught fire in ’89. The nation’s secular fabric would have been ripped asunder in the 1950s itself, rather than in the ’80s. India’s relations with China would have deteriorated faster than they did. Nationalisation of key sectors would have happened sooner than in 1969. And a ‘nationalistic’ culture and education would have been the staple of post-Independence generations much earlier.
Before the Patel-baiter label is flung at us, a reminder that the ‘Iron Man’ was never in the race—once he had given his word to Gandhiji on not opposing the anointment of Jawaharlal Nehru. And he was definitely not against the Muslim community in general; even Gandhi admitted "it would be a travesty of truth to describe Sardar as anti-Muslim". Patel must also be acknowledged for several achievements, most notably the manner in which he integrated the princely states (especially Hyderabad) as minister of home and states. The Nizam was trying to pit India against Pakistan but, despite Nehru’s anxieties about the use of force, Patel bulldozed his way through.
His supporters contend that’s exactly what he would have done in Kashmir. After tribesmen intruded into Kashmir in October 1947, he would never have agreed to a ceasefire with Pakistan until the Indian army had driven the last of the attackers out of the state. So there wouldn’t have been an entity like Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Nor would the dispute have been referred to the United Nations, as it was on January 1, 1948. So there wouldn’t have been a Kashmir problem as there wouldn’t have been a UN resolution that mentioned a plebiscite in the now-disputed state.
The problem with this simplistic reading, as Nehru felt, is that excessive use of military power would have created an international furore, especially since Britain’s attitude—and also that of India’s last governor-general Lord Mountbatten—was pro-Pakistan. Britain would have ensured that India was reprimanded in the UN. The Commonwealth may have refused membership, and even the US might have joined hands with Britain. That would have been a terrible blow to Patel who wanted India to recognise Israel faster, was pro-US, and also favoured joining the Commonwealth.
India’s diplomatic alienation would also have been complete due to Patel’s views on China and neighbours like Nepal. On the former, he was convinced that the "Chinese advance into Tibet (in 1949) upsets all our security calculations". The Sardar would have adopted a confrontationist stance against China. He also believed that India couldn’t afford any instability in Nepal and that "there was no doubt that in Nepal’s difficulties it was India and no other power which could assist it". Logically, he would have interfered in the internal problems of "friendly" neighbouring states.
Result: India would have been battling Pakistan in the northwest and China in the north and northeast, interfering in Nepal, and facing internal strife in the south due to the ruthless use of the military in Hyderabad. Remember, the country was still a fledgling republic and had minimal resources to spend on army mobilisation. Western powers would have looked at India with great suspicion, leading to the next PM’s (obviously Nehru) total tilt towards the Soviet Union (which India didn’t) or inward-looking streak (in the event, Nehru’s purna swaraj meant no truck with Britain or the Commonwealth).
Either way, the economic impact of Patel’s policies would have been disastrous. Had India become a Soviet satellite under the second PM, private capital would have died a natural death and sectors like banks would have been nationalised in the ’50s (not 1969). That, as several economists agree, would have spelt a bigger doom. And if India had become an "introvert economy", growth rates would have been lower than the already abysmal "Hindu rate of growth of 3-4 per cent" of the period. And because Patel was perceived to be pro-capitalist, against controls, central planning, nationalisation, Gandhism and unreasonable labour—which is why most Indian businessmen wanted Patel, not Nehru, to be the PM—his successor would have deliberately initiated policies that were anti-Indian business.
The situation could have become unmanageable since his actions against Pakistan could have created an irreconcilable divide between the Hindus and Muslims as early as the 1950s. For example, Patel opposed India’s move to pay back any cash dues to Pakistan, as had been agreed to in the Partition agreement, until the neighbour withdrew its troops from PoK. The then PM of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, even accused India of "strangulating" its economy. If Nehru hadn’t insisted on the payment, and decided not to push Pakistan to the wall, Indian Hindus, who were clamouring for revenge against Pakistan and Muslims, could have become more militant and virulent earlier than they did.
Don’t forget that most Hindus who migrated from Pakistan wanted India to teach Pakistan a lesson for the massacres (which actually happened on both sides of the border). At one meeting where the issue was raised, Patel enigmatically said: "I do appreciate your feelings but as all of you know it is not right to pluck an unripe fruit, as it is rather painful. However, it is much more easy to pluck a ripe fruit." Was Patel, who firmly believed that Pakistan’s reunion with India was inevitable, hinting that, at some stage, India would force Pakistan to its knees? If true, the rise of Hindu militancy could have happened in the 1950s, not the 1980s.
Now if this counter-factual is taken to be a truism, one can only imagine the consequences. Rightly or wrongly, what India has witnessed during the last two decades would have happened in the first two following Independence. Would India have emerged stronger from this cultural-religious-civic turbulence, or would she have crumbled under the enormous pressure? Would we have rewritten our history and textbooks in a different manner? Would we have emerged as a religious-nationalist society? As India’s first PM, Sardar Patel would have prompted more questions and provided few answers.
The author is researching 'The Money that Moved the Mahatma', an expose of how the Indian freedom movement was financed.
Florida 2000: What if the US had EVMs, Dubya hadn’t won by 537 votes? Would Al Gore have gone to war?
London 1945: What if Clement Attlee had lost the polls? Would Churchill have freed India in ’47?
These are very foolish assumptions. A columnist also needs some I.Q and simple erudition or some "bookish" knowledge is not enough.
The entire article assumes that Nehru did not commit any mistakes !!!! . As every shcool student knows , Nehru indeed made mistakes. In fact no body is above mistakes.
Nehru made mistakes about Kashmir and China. It was also true that he lacked the support of a towering personality like Sardar Patel,who died by the time and Congress parliamentary party members as also oppostion brought pressure on Nehru who buckled and committed grave mistakes about China. Nehru agreed that he lived in the illusions of his own like many MP's who lived in their illusions (about China).
About Kashmir he clearly made mistakes , the war to drive out invaders ( Pakistan regulars mixed with tribals and dacoits ) was a prolonged one and could not be finished as fast as possible. And added to this was the pressure from Mountbatten to take to UN. India still had a dominion status and C-in-C was a British general.
But Nehru did not learn any lessons from this. He was also tagged by an extremely recalcitrant,influential as well as very foolish Finance Minister like Morarji Desai.
The assumptions of Alam Srinivas are extremely foolish,even on the verge of stupidity. For example Sardar Patel died just 3 years after. And he put the blame on Sardar for any measures his successor Nehru could have made !!!
Sardar Patel was on death bed in Birla's house. He was going in to unconciousness now and then. In between he came back and when he saw Nehru, he ( Patel) told Nehru that he should not trust China , never to trust it. But Nehru trusted China foolishly believing a theoretical aspect of communism that China would never attack or a invade a poor country like India ( at the time , it was not even a "developing " country). And believed that China would come for negotiations and discussions for border dispute instead of outright aggression. Sardar warned of dubious nature of Chinese leaders but Nehru did not listen.
Sardar Patel also made mistakes.If he really wanted he could have taken Kashmir outright,forcing king of Kashmir in as much the same way as he forced Baroda's raja or kings of Madhya pradesh, Rajashtan etc., I think there were about 450 kingdoms in India which Sardar united mostly by force or putting the Kings in such situtations without any other alternative except to join India.
As for kingdom of Kashmir, Sardar definitely made a mistake.One reason could be that he truly believed that it was muslim kingdom and should belong to Pakistan. It was unbelievable but to a great extent it was true. Another reason was that Sardar Patel was under pressure from Hindu Mahasabha and other organisations where Patel had good friends. In fact some of the congress people were not very interested and they wanted an independant Hindu kingdom just above a Republic of India in a map.
But whatver the reason Nehru went on requesting Sardar Patel to finish Kashmir issue first as that would become an resolved issue if delayed. Sardar Patel did not listen. He was preoccupied with many other issues which was true.
In any case Sardar Patel as PM would think in a different way. And we must not forget that he lived for just another 3 years only.
author is IDIOT. No comment further.
Silly article. What kind of assumptions are these? What is Hindu Militancy? Why the so called came up in 1980s even when the great Nehru family was in power. Is the author suggesting minority appeasement is the best form of governance?
What if Subash Chandra Bose Did not Mysteriously Disappear in 1946-47?
What if Rajiv Gandhi did not visit the restaurant where Saint Sonia worked, in 1964?
What If Lal Bahadur Sastri was not MURDERED in 1966?
What if Sanjay Gandhi was not KILLED in 1980?
What if Indira Gandhi death DID NOT HAPPEN in 1984?
What if Rajiv Gandhi death DID NOT HAPPEN in 1991?
What if PVN Rao was smarter and politically finished off the Dynasty in 1993 ?
In the light of above ,what has been mentioned- should we infer - had VB Patel became PM of India in place of Nehru, over all scenerio of the country would have been altogether different . The things in respect of unity in diversity would not have been that which we see today. Patel then appeared some what extra rigid on certain issues. However,it seems certain that Kashmirpakistan and china issues that we are facing today would not have been there. We perhaps would have been strong enough on our foreign policy front. But at the same time ,it is unquestionably true that Nehru did put his heart and soul in making his fullest efforts in the industrial development of country. It was during his times that nation could achieve a lot in terms of power generation,irrgation,dams, ,steel plants and various other industries flourished.
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