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The tale of two Integrators

"History is not a chronology of events, but the biography of great men."
Sardar Patel is sometimes referred to as the "Bismarck of India". I would say thats an understatement. While Bismarck integrated a set of highly homogeneous states with significant Germany speaking population under the common banner of Germany, what Sardarji achieved was a monumental deed, an accomplishment without a parallel.
I recall the awe with which I learnt about him while studying History back in school. Later when I learnt about Otto Von Bismarck, I was equally in awe, I was impressed by his most famous quote of all time "The great questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood."
After the delusions of ideological warfare, righteous conduct and altruistic love and affection being practised by the rulers of the time, Bismarck was like a whirlpool who choose to call spade a spade thus making it amply clear that power is final solution to all problems and not the idea of justice. Here was a man blunt enough & worldly-wise to note that "There is no altruism among nations". Nations work for nothing but their own interests and generally there's no common-law among nations which can help identify good and evil. How he achieved this forms an elaborate lesson on the Art of Diplomacy. It is the principle on which nations act, in their foreign policies, driven by their own interests and not by altruism, friendship, idealism or solidarity considerations, power has a decisive role in international relations. Probably, when philosopher Nietzsche was speaking of his "superman", he was inspired by Bismarck.
Tremendous as Bismarck's legacy is, Sardarji set out with more problems and difficulties & amidst greater turbulence and chaos accomplished a task almost double as hard with even better results. That, despite internal problems, India has been by and large a successful democracy is undeniable, and this is the proud legacy of Sardarji. To form a coherent and united India from the shambles of British ruled Indian subcontinent was a wonder of sorts.
Consider what Winston Churchill had to say about Indian Unity :
India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.
Also consider the peak of arrogance when India was commented upon thus "If the British left, India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages”. However one man stood in between the doomsayers and its fulfillment.

"The Iron Man of India" defied all expectations and surpassed all estimations in this regard and proved all distractors wrong. In the 560 principalities (Princely states), it was a tremedous task to unite them all & tackle problems head on. To Gandhiji and Nehru who were more concerned about the ideological implications of their peace based ahimsa & satyagraha, Sardarji was pragmatic enough to understand that he must act quickly and firmly. Times were incongenial to polite shallow talks and there was a need to be realistic about things...No use being ignorantly optimistic or of being knowledgably pessimistic.. Time was ripe to tactfully use all resources to achieve the dream of unified India through all the instruments & tools at disposal. Some might question the morality of the methods used. But in situation like this, one can't be dogmatic about ideologies. When its a matter of death of millions and disastrous loss of property use of coercive methods is quite justified. To integrate states of diverse culture and languages is a herculean task.

While tackling the issue of partition Sardarji made it clear that the inevitable must be faced "Nobody likes the division of India and my heart is heavy. But the choice is between one division and many divisions. We must face facts. We cannot give way to emotionalism and sentimentality."

Some people who can be moralistic by proxy claim that no end can justify the means used. However considering what was at stake,only a statesman of the tall stature of Sardar could have solved it. Delay in implementation would have resulted in Kashmir like situation everywhere in India. Good motives when weakened by cowardity and inertia are worser than resolute and armed evil.

While Bismarck followed a bloody irony of tactics, Sardarji mostly brought up a bloodless revolution.
At the time of his death, the Manchester Guardian wrote: "Without Patel, Gandhi's idea would have less practical influence and Nehru's idealism less scope. He was not only the organiser of the fight for freedom, but also the architect of the new state when the fight was over. The same man is seldom successful both as rebel and statesman. Sardar Patel was an exception."

Both these men, have often used questionable tactics, but what can't be denied is the overwhelming positive influence they left as legacy. Criticism if any is shamed into silence by the sheer magnitude of task accomplished. It is all very well to be moralistic from respectable distance and comment that things must be done so and so manner. But such men are beyond good and evil, for they follow a idea which is realized much later by lesser souls. Bismarck was severely criticised for his tactics, yet he enjoys the enviable position of creating the first nation-state based on language. That India didn't go Pakistan way as a failed state is the severest critic of those who wish to criticize Sardarji.

The story of these 2 great political geniuses is testimony to the infinite possibility of human victory amidst insurmountable odds and the how an resolute mind can conquer the chaos of uncertainty.


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