Entry Into Public Life

Entry Into Public Life

The year 1916 was a landmark in the history of the Congress and a turning point in career of Sardar Patel. He Placed his services at the disposal of the Mahatma and soon became one of his trusted lieutenants. He entered the Ahmadabad Municipality, the first step to his public career. It took him little time to make his mark. The thoroughness of his work as the Chairman of the Sanitary Committee won him universal applause. His duties were heavy but he stood at his post under all trying conditions.

He showed his mettle when plague broke out in the city in October 1917; he moved with the Municipal staff for taking effective preventive measures under his personal care. This was a new departure in the outlook and method of service of city fathers. 

Vallabhbhai and Gandhiji came into close contact when the latter accented the Presidentship of the Gujarat Sabha in 1917. The success of the Champaran campaign where the technique of non-violence was tried out for the first time electrified the members of the Club. The Sardar who for long had sat apart sneering at the new spiritual force in Indian politics began to accept the Gandhian creed.

It was a red letter day for the Bombay Provincial .Congress Committee when it elected him as its President in 1921. The same year he was chosen as the Chairman of the Reception Committee of the 36th session of the Indian National Congress. With his inimitable drive the Sardar collected a crore of rupees to conduct the historic struggle launched by Gandhiji at this time.

His example fired the imagination of many prominent lawyers who renounced their huge incomes and dedicated themselves to the service of the nation. Boys and girls emptied schools and colleges. Women flocked in thousands and poured their jewellery into Gandhiji's begging bowl. Such was the enthusiasm that had been generated for the cause of national liberty by the peasant leader of Gujarat.

The first success of Gandhiji's technique of non-violence at the Bardoli campaign, was due to the erstwhile sceptic lawyer who had become the most devout follower of the Mahatma, the perfect instrument, the vehicle supreme, of the Master. Before the Government knew what was happening 80,000 people had been organised into one compact unit which the Raj tried with desperate tricks to break up. But all in vain. From that day, the Sardar stands for' efficiency of organisation, thoroughness in handling 'a situation and mastery in management of big things.

The British rulers stooped as low as they could at the Bardoli campaign - 17000 men and 40000 buffaloes were locked up in a small insanitary house for over three months. Stench and disease ate into their vitals. Yet the call of the Iron Man strengthened their resolve to hold on. He had undermined British fortifications. He ran daggers in to the heart of bureaucracy while dealing sledge-hammer blows to fifth columnists.  The Government was forced to come to peace with the Congress. The Government offered terms to Sardar Patel who spurned them. But Gandhiji accepted the proposals and the Sardar had no way but to acquiesce. He was great disciplinarian; he knew not only now to command but obey as well. His name stands for "Discipline" not only in the Congress but in the whole theatre of Indian politics.

The technique adopted by Sardar Patel at Bardoli set the model for future campaigns and undermined the Imperial citadel. When the Congress organisation was banned, he made every home a Congress office and every soul a Congress organisation. He turned every village into an armed camp and made the people cast off their fear. He taught them to be self-rehant, resourceful and patient. The art of managing men he knew very well. His sardonic humour goaded his listeners into action.

in the historic "Dandi March" launched by Gandhiji in March 1930 Sardar Patel was the Grand Commander. He delivered fiery speeches to the villagers all along his route and stirred up the masses to action. His arrest only electrified the atmosphere; the people of Ahmadabad took a solemn pledge to follow their leader to the dark cell. A mighty revolution swept over India. But the people declared that despite severe provocation to violence their salvation lay in Truth and non-violence.

Sardar Patel was released to relieve the situation but was again re-arrested along with his daughter Maniben. Gandhiji and Patel were imprisoned together, and the master, on his release, spoke of the glorious attributes of his disciple. The Sardar's motherly qualities became as much known as his bravery during his incarceration.