Bharatiya Janata Party patriarch LK Advani today raked up another controversy over Sardar Patel, quoting a book to allege India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru called his home minister a “total communalist” for suggesting army be sent to take over a defiant Hyderabad after Independence.
In his latest blog posting, Advani has referred to extracts of a book, "The Story of an Era Told without Ill Will" by MKK Nair, which deals with the "sharp exchange" between Nehru and Patel in a Cabinet meeting before "police action" against Hyderabad.
The Nizam, who wanted to accede to Pakistan, had sent an emissary to the neighbouring country and transferred a huge sum of money to the government there, it says.
The Nizam's officials were reportedly heaping atrocities on locals.
"At a cabinet meeting, Patel had described these things and demanded that army be sent to end the terror-regime in Hyderabad. Nehru who usually spoke calmly, peacefully and with international etiquette, spoke losing his composure, ‘You are a total communalist. I will never accept your recommendation...Patel remained unperturbed but left the room with his papers," Advani says, quoting from Nair’s book.
BJP has of late been trying to appropriate Sardar Patel as a leader close to the Hindutva ideology. Advani and BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi recently laid foundation stone of a 182-metre-tall statue of Patel, which will be the world’s tallest, in Gujarat.
Modi told a public meeting recently that the country’s “fate and face” would have been different if Patel had been its first Prime Minister. At the foundation laying ceremony he said India needed “Patel’s secularism” not “vote-bank secularism”.
Both Advani and Modi have sought to fashion themselves as inheritors of Patel's legacy. The BJP has also alleged that Sardar Patel contribution was never hailed by the Congress and that it only eulogised the Nehru-Gandhi family.
In his blog, Advani says then governor general Rajaji prevailed over Nehru to send the army to Hyderabad. As the situation continued to worsen, Rajaji called Nehru and Patel to Rashtrapati Bhawan to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, the army was kept battle-ready. During his meeting with Nehru and Patel, Rajaji used a letter from the British High Commissioner protesting against the rape of 70-year-old nuns of a convent two days earlier by Razakars of Hyderabad.
VP Menon, a bureaucrat and close aide of Patel, had given this letter to Rajaji before the meeting.
"Rajaji in his typical style described the situation in Hyderabad. He felt that, to safeguard India's reputation, a decision should not be delayed any longer,” Nehru was concerned about international repercussions. Rajaji then played his trump card---the letter from the British High Commissioner.
"Nehru read it. His face turned red...Anger choked his words. He shot out of his chair, slammed his fist on the table and cried out, 'Let's not waste a moment. We'll teach them a lesson’”.
"Rajaji immediately told Menon to inform the Commander in-Chief to proceed according to the plan," Advani said, quoting from the book.