Misunderstanding Nehru-Patel: They
often disagreed with each other but worked closely, presented a united front
Mains Paper 1: History
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Describe and comparison the personalities of Nehru and Patel
- The people who rule the country today are teaching us a new history of
- They fight about the recent events surrounding our Independence, the
integration of the princely states and the roles played by Jawaharlal Nehru
and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
What is the recent debate?
- These people’s version is that whatever the Sardar handled was a great
success and whatever was handled by Nehru turned out to be a great blunder.
- Manish Tewari of the Congress tried to assert in the Lok Sabha that it
was Nehru who was responsible for the accession to India of the princely
states of Junagadh, J&K and Hyderabad.
- The moment Tewari mentioned Hyderabad, the home minister asserted
angrily that it was Patel who was responsible for the accession of
Hyderabad, not Nehru.
What is the comparison about these leaders?
- Sardar Patel was 14 years older than Nehru and was a leader of the
masses in his own right.
- Though Nehru had become the prime minister, the Sardar, as deputy prime
minister and the home minister was almost, if not truly, his equal.
- The recent comparison which comes to mind is that of Atal Bihari
Vajpayee and L K Advani during the 1998-2004 period when they were both in
- Like Vajpayee and Advani, Nehru and Patel had their differences,
sometimes very sharp ones.
- The differences between Vajpayee and Advani were always resolved through
discussions and in the case of Nehru and Patel, through the Mahatma’s
- At times the differences became so sharp that they led to Patel offering
his resignation from the government, to be followed by Nehru making a
- They also played politics with each other, especially when it came to
party affairs or the choice of the first president of India.
- Yet, despite their differences, Patel continued in government until his
death and even accepted Nehru as his leader after the death of Gandhi.
What often led to differences between them?
- The Constitution was still a work in progress and so was the system of
collective responsibility and the authority of the PM in the cabinet.
- Nehru was obviously keen to establish his position as primus inter pares
in the cabinet and wanted his view to prevail.
- This often led to differences between Nehru and Patel as indeed between
them and the other ministers. But is this not natural?
- In every cabinet, there are differences among the ministers and between
them and the prime minister on issues which are finally resolved and a joint
front presented in Parliament and outside.
What is the truth?
- There is enough material on record to support those who are interested
in only highlighting the differences between these two great men just as
there is enough material to support that they got along very well.
- But both these views represent the two extremes. The truth lies in the
middle: Nehru and Patel jointly played a decisive role in the making of
- Those who contend otherwise do not understand the working of the cabinet
- So whether it was the accession of J&K or Hyderabad to India, there were
many rounds of negotiations, harrowing moments and differences of opinion
among the decision-makers.
- Both Nehru and Patel played a vital role in the decision-making process.
Also, Governor-General Lord Mountbatten played a key role.
- Patel was also party to the idea of plebiscite wherever there was
dispute — Junagadh, J&K and Hyderabad.
- This was the clear position of the government of India then. It was
Pakistan which was constantly running away from it.
- Patel did not resign from the cabinet when it was decided to refer the
J&K issue to the UN or when India accepted a ceasefire.
- He might have had his reservations but went along with the decisions.
What is absolutely clear?
- It is equally clear from contemporary accounts that Patel would not have
objected if J&K had acceded to Pakistan but he was absolutely clear that
Hyderabad should accede to India.
- All the decisions in those days were taken either in the defence
committee of the cabinet headed by Mountbatten or in the cabinet. Patel was
a member of both.
- He expressed his views freely, frankly and at times, even bluntly.
- But always went along with the final decision taken, as did Nehru and
- It is easy for us to sit in judgement today after 73 years over the
great men who fought for India’s independence and then ruled the country.
- But let us leave history to the historians.
Q.1) Which of the following cannot be subjected to judicial review?
1. The satisfaction of the President in declaring Financial Emergency.
2. The legal protection by the Parliament to any person in the Union services
for his acts to restore order in a martial law
3. Any parliamentary law made under Article 33 to abrogate the fundamental
rights of the members of the police
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 3 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q.1) What are the comparison between Nehru Patel? What often led to
differences between them?